as told to Harry Paxton
Babe Didrikson Zaharias has been a
world figure cvcr.sincc the late Grant-
land Rice took her under his paternal
wing at the 1932 Olympics and then
introduced his u bestgal" to golf. Soon
thereafter she was hitting her tee shots
farther than many of the male golf
This is much more than a chronicle
of the Babe's unique athletic career.
It is the self-portrait of an exception-
ally warm and vivid woman. Those
who thought of the Babe as just a
muscle moll will be surprised and
pleased with the stories of her child-
hood in Beaumont; her memories of
(contfonted on back flap)
3 r 1 48 0065 / " /////M <<
This Life I've Led
Babe Didrikson Zaharias
as told to
A. S. BARNES AND COMPANY
COPYRIGHT 1955 by A. S. BARNES and COMPANY, INC.
AH rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in
any form, either wholly or in part, for any use whatsoever, in-
cluding radio and television presentation, without the written
permission of the copyright owner, except by a reviewer who
may quote brief passages in a review printed in a magazine or
newspaper. Manufactured in the United States of America,
Published on the same day in the Dominion of Canada
by THE COPP CLARK COMPANY^ LTD., TORONTO.
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 55-10217
In memory of
my mother and father,
and to my husband, George,
there never would have been
a life to leai
You might suppose offhand that Babe Didrikson Zaharias is
too well known to require any introduction. Actually this
isn't the case. To be sure, even people who never look at the
sports pages can identify her as a superwoman athlete. And
everybody is sympathetically aware of her valiant struggle
against cancer. But only a comparative few have been in a
position to know that she is also something out of the ordi-
nary as a person.
Hundreds of newspaper reporters, among others, have
made this pleasant discovery at different places around the
country during the past two decades. The Babe would come
to their town for some tournament or personal appearance.
They would be assigned to interview her. They would go out
expecting, as often as not, to meet a hard-shelled muscle
woman. They would find instead one of the most exuberantly
warm and openhearted human beings ever to turn up on the
Yet their stories about the Babe, being necessarily lim-
ited in scope and space, seldom have conveyed the full flavor
and dimensions of her personality. A news reporter must, as
a rule, concentrate on some one angle. He sifts out the most
striking and pertinent "quotes," In the Babe's case, this sort
of highlighting is inadequate to give the picture. The truth
is that Babe Didrikson Zaharias is more than just a sports
figure. And her life has been much more than just a sports
This writer has done many biographical pieces about
prominent athletes, and helped a number of others to tell
their own stories. Always the effort is to get beneath the sur-
face and bring ones subject to life. Most of the time it is an
effort, calling for intensive digging not only with the man
himself, but also with people close to him. Some great ath-
letes are too shy and introverted to talk much about them-
selves. Some are too inarticulate. A few just don't have much
to say; they are pretty commonplace individuals when con-
sidered apart from their sports specialties.
There are others who do respond freely and fully to
searching questions. A handful, such as Leo Durocher, can be
real spellbinders. But the writer never has worked with any-
one in sports who "gave" so unreservedly as the Babe. At each
slight prod she would be off and running, volunteering her
every thought and emotion about the topic up for discussion.
When preparation of this autobiography began, Babe
said, "If Tm going to tell the story of my life, the thing for me
to do is relive it." And she did- For instance, when you come
to the chapter relating how she was sent to Chicago as a one-
girl track team to try and win the national women's cham-
pionship singlehanded, you will read this passage: "It came
time to announce my 'team.* I spurted out there all alone,
waving my arms, and you never heard such a roar. It brought
out goose bumps all over me. I can feel them now, just think-
ing about it."
Well, Babe was sitting in her Florida home when she
said these words, and wearing her usual around-the-house
attire of shorts and blouse. She paused for a moment and
looked down at herself. Sure enough, she had been "reliving"
that moment so completely that her bare arms and legs were
covered with gooseflesh.
There was no subject on which the Babe said, "I'd rather
not get into that," or, "Let's leave that out/' She never
stopped to calculate her words so as to put the best possible
construction on potentially controversial matters. On aU
phases of her life, the details flowed out with the character-
istic spontaneity of this woman who doesn't try to fool any-
body including herself,
In line with this, a short explanation is in order on how
this book came into being. For years people had been telling
Babe Zaharias, "You should write your memoirs. YouVe had
such an unusual life." And she had kept answering, "I'll never
have the time for it." She probably never would have had the
time to do a thoroughgoing job if it had been necessary for
her to put the whole thing in manuscript form herself. What
made this book possible was that modern improvement on
the old-fashioned ghost writer the tape recorder.
Most public figures with interesting and significant lives
to talk about do need some specialized assistance in prepar-
ing their stories for publication. Unfortunately, the subject's
words and thoughts often are diluted considerably in trans-
mission through a collaborator. This is particularly regret-
table when the subject is a person of genuine individuality,
such as Babe Didrikson Zaharias.
So when her good friend and business agent, Fred Cor-
coran, flashed the word last winter, "Babe's ready to tell her
story now/' it was promptly decided that she should tell it
in the presence of a tape recorder. As she re-created her life
stage by stage reminiscing out loud for hours at a time, day
after day the machine was there to capture precisely all her
words and opinions and attitudes. Nothing was left to the
fallible memory and notebook of the collaborator. In assem-
bling it all on paper, he worked with pure ore.
So this is the Babe's own story, told in her own natural,
informal and vivid style of expressing herself. It is as re-
vealing as utter candor can make it, although she indulges in
no hand-wringing self -analysis. That wouldn't be the Babe.
She isn't the type for repressions and neuroses. She doesn't
lock up her troubles inside herself. Her problems always are
out in the open. She doesn't brood about them. She acts on
If there is anything you don't understand about the Babe
when you have finished this book, it won't be because she
tried to hold things back. She doesn't draw many conclusions
about herself, but the various facets of her character are im-
plicit in her personal testimony.
For example, take the big question: What made her such
a phenomenal athlete? Was she born that way? You will see
from the evidence that although she was a "natural" with
great innate ability, it by no means followed automatically
that she should become the champ. Read about how she kept
drilling for her first important golf tournament until there
was "tape all over my hands, and blood all over the tape/*
They say in sports that "the best athlete is the hungry
athlete." You will find that this applies to the Babe in the
sense that she knew financial insecurity as a child. However,
she had security in the broader sense that the child psychol-
ogists talk about she grew up in an exceptionally close-
knit and affectionate household. This is clear from Babe's
fond reminiscences about her Norwegian-born Momma and
Poppa, and her sk brothers and sisters. It has been reflected
throughout her life in her cheerful, friendly outlook on the
world and everybody in it.
You will realize also that some of her remarks which
sound boastful when taken out of context actually are plain
statements of the truth as she sees it. Frank Graham, the dis-
tinguished New York sports columnist, has remarked that in
this respect Babe reminds him of baseball's Roger Hornsby
a quite different personality in other ways. Each has an out-
spoken honesty that is uninhibited either by vainglory or
false modesty. Each lays it right on the line, without striving
for any calculated effect.
The Babe doesn't pretend to be anything more than
what she is. Nor does she pretend to be anything less. When
she speaks of her skills, she does so without preening herself
or getting belligerently insistent. She is relaxed about it. Her
tone is matter-of-fact.
Most of the work on this book was done during a period
in the spring of 1955 when the Babe was taking what she
regarded as a rest. She had been feeling a bit fatigued, and
had decided to take several weeks off from the golf-
tournament circuit. This would be a good time for the auto-
biography, she thought, and also for the Zahariases to move
into their brand-new Tampa home, on which final touches
still were being made.
When she wasn't pouring her life story into the tape
recorder, she was busy superintending and often working
with assorted electricians and other installation men. Some
rest curel At that, it was a comparative breathing spell for
this hyperactive gal who always has lived and worked at a
furious morning-to-night pace.
In the course of spending many days with the Zahariases,
the collaborator could see for himself the validity of many
of the things the Babe was bringing out in her memoirs,
There was the easy oneness that existed between the Babe
and her husband George. There was the devoted friendship
of her young golfing protege, Betty Dodd, who was in there
helping at every step as the Babe and George settled into
their new house.
One of the notable features of this book is the Babe's
lack of animosity toward the occasional persons and organi-
zations whose actions have impeded her progress. She seldom
expresses even mild resentment, and in no case does she indi-
cate any lasting feeling of ill will. She's the same way in
private conversation. She doesn't go in for backbiting and
running people down. Malice and spite are not part of her
Her manner is the same with anyone she meets, from
laborers to Presidents. She never was overawed by celebri-
ties, even before she became one herself. She doesn't try to
overawe anyone else.
Enough of stating things that the reader will be able
to see for himself. The purpose of this preface is not to try
to summarize the book. On the pages that follow, the Babe
will reveal herself much more clearly and interestingly than
any outsider could hope to do.
She's a person worth knowing. Can you think of any
other athlete in history, man or woman, who has been su-
preme in so many different fields? The Babe has been tops
in every sport she took up an All-American in basketball,
a world-record breaker in track and field, a consistent winner
of all the major golf championships open to women.
Perhaps her most impressive golfing triumphs fully as
amazing as those achieved by Ben Hogan after his near-fatal
automobile smashup were the titles she came back to win
after undergoing major cancer surgery in 1953. Many persons
who have this same operation resign themselves to being
semi-invalids the rest of their lives.
It is probable that the sobering effect of her cancer
ordeal, combined with the evidence that her comeback had
been inspirational to other sufferers, hastened the Babe's de-
cision last winter to delay no longer on doing her autobiog-
raphy. She still was only forty when she began these mem-
oirs, but she already had been established for a quarter of a
century in the world of big-time sports.
There was one unhappy new note just as this book was
being completed in the summer of 1955. The Babe had met
and licked cancer once. Now the doctors found that she was
in for a return match. Their X rays showed a fresh trace of
This news did not demoralize her, any more than other
tough challenges have. The Babe always has been the happy-
warrior type determined but not bitter. She is a realistic
competitor who never underrates an opponent and never
doubts that she has what it takes to come out on top. It was
in this spirit that she faced up to the latest big battle of her
Harry T. Paxton
This Life I've Led
You never saw anybody more excited than I
was that night at the railroad station in Beaumont, Texas,
back in February 1930. Here I was, just a little old high-school
girl, wanting to be a big athlete. And now I was getting a
chance to go with an insurance company in Dallas and play
on their basketball team in the women's national champion-
It was an overnight sleeper trip to Dallas, about 275
miles from Beaumont. To me, that was like going to Europe.
Td never been more than a few miles away from home in my
life. Td hardly ever been so dressed up, either, I was wearing
the blue silk dress with box pleats that I'd made in school,
and won a prize with at the Texas State Fair. I had on my
patent leather shoes, and socks, and the little hat Yd got for
graduation exercises at junior high school. I was carrying a
black patent leather purse. It had my entire fortune in it the
$3.49 change from the money they'd given me to buy the rail-
My dad was traveling with me. I took the tipper berth
and Poppa took the lower. He propped himself up with his
newspaper and started puffing away on his big black pipe, the
way he always did at home. For a while there they thought
that Pullman car was on fire.
In Dallas the next morning Col. M. J. McCombs, the man
who was in charge of the basketball team, met us at the sta-
tion with the big yellow Cadillac he used for driving the girls
around to games. He had a redcap take our bags and put them
in the car, and then tipped him a quarter.
I said to Poppa, "Look at that! He gets a quarter just for
carrying those bags out. Man, I'd like to get me a job like
111 bet IVe traveled a couple of million miles since then,
competing all around the United States and in other parts of
the world, but that first trip was the start of everything. Even
then I had other ideas besides playing basketball. I wanted to
be in the Olympic Games, and after that I wanted to be a golf
star. One thing sort of led to another. I got to be an Olympic
champion, and win all the most important women's golf
tournaments, and do a lot of other things*
It didn't all go along as smooth as that sounds* I wanted
to spend my life in sports, but I had to make money too, and
that isn't so easy for a woman athlete. There were times when
I could have used that redcap's quarters. Once I got so hard
up I almost agreed to a stunt where they'd have me running
a race against a horse. But I didn't do it. I knew that wasn't
really the right kind of performance for a girl to be putting
Those money worries I used to have were nothing like
the jolt that hit me in April of 1953. The doctors found I had
a cancer in the lower intestine. They told me I needed an
operation called a colostomy, and explained what it was. It
changes your anatomy around so much that you wonder
whether you'll ever be able to live your normal life again,
That was all I could think of when I first got the bad news.
Finally I took hold of myself. I said, "Babe, here you're
worrying about whether you can play in golf tournaments,
you're worrying about whether you can give exhibitions,
you're worrying about whether you can go to banquets. You'd
better start realizing that you'll be doing good if you get out
of this thing alive."
All my life I've been competing and competing to win.
I came to realize that in its way, this cancer was the toughest
competition I'd faced yet. I made up my mind that I was go-
ing to lick it all the way. I not only wasn't going to let it kill
me, I wasn't even going to let it put me on the shelf. I was
determined to come back and win golf championships just the
same as before.
I lived through the cancer, and I've been living with it
since. I want to say more about that later, because I believe
the cancer problem should be out in the open. The more the
public knows about it the better.
I won't ever forget the first golf tournament I played in
after my cancer operation. It was the 1953 Tarn o' Shanter
1- American Championship" in Niles, Illinois., and I entered
It about three and a half months after being under the knife.
I had a bad round the first day an eighty-two. The
second day it was worse an eighty-five. It seemed like I
couldn't do anything right. The third day started off the same.
I was beginning to think it was true what so many people
had said, that I'd never be able to play championship golf
I three-putted the fourth green. On the fifth hole I
messed up an easy little chip shot, and then took another
three putts. I walked on to the sixth tee, and sat down on my
seat cane. And then I couldn't stop myself I put my face
in my hands and just bawled.
My friend Betty Dodd, the young golfer, was paired
with me that day, and also Beverly Hanson. That big, won-
derful guy I'm married to, George Zaharias, was walking
around the course with us. Waitll I get to tell you how I first
met up with him! Anyway, George and Betty both said I
should pick up and go back to the clubhouse if I didn't feel
like playing any more that afternoon. They said everybody
would understand and think it was perfectly all right.
I told them, "I don't pick up the ball!" I went on and
played out the round, and my game began coming back. I
shot the last nine holes in thirty-four, two under men's par.
By the next year, 1954, 1 was winning tournaments again, in-
cluding the biggest one, the National Women's Open. That
was the third Women's Open I'd won out of the five IVe
I really pointed for that 1954 Open, and I took it by
twelve strokes. You have to get yourself all fired up to win
these tournaments. It's even harder to stay at the top in sports
than it is to get there.
It took me longer than I figured It would to get to the
top in golf. The thing was that in the early years, I couldn't
stick with golf all the time, the way you have to do if you're
going to develop your game. I had a living to make, and a
family I wanted to help. I wanted to do things for Momma
and Poppa. They'd done so much for us seven Didrikson kids,
I had a wonderful childhood. That must prove that it
doesn't take money to be happy, because the Didriksons sure
weren't rich. My father and mother had to work and scrimp
and save like anything just to be able to feed and clothe us
all. Poppa's trade there in Beaumont was furniture refinish-
ing. He did fine cabinet work, and most of the time he was
making around $200 a month. That was pretty good money in
those days, but with seven kids to support, he generally
didn't have any dimes or quarters to hand out to us for pic-
ture shows and all that.
So Poppa said, "Well, I'll build good bodies for them."
He set up a regular gymnasium in the back yard. He put up
bars for jumping and all that. In the garage he had this
weightlif ting device. It was an old broomstick with a flatiron
at each end. He put it there for the boys, so they could
strengthen their muscles, but my sister Lillie and I would get
in there and work out with it too.
The last four of us were pretty close together in age
Louis and Lillie, who were twins; little brother Arthur, and
me. Lillie and I always barged right into all the neighborhood
games along with Louis and Arthur. So did a girl friend of
ours named Christine McCandless. We played baseball and
football with the boys and everything.
I know the boys there on Doucette Street in Beaumont
hated to see us girls show up when they were playing football.
That meant they'd have to stop tackling and switch to touch
tag. My mother always said to my brothers, "Don't tackle the
girls." My brothers were in the games, of course, so they knew
that if there was any tackling., and Momma heard about It,
they'd catch it when they got home.
We'd play baseball in our back yard, and sometimes the
ball would go into the rose bushes. Poor Momma nearly died,
because she really loved her roses. I'm the same way about
roses myself. Momma kept telling us to keep that baseball
out of her flower beds. Then one day we persuaded her to
get in the game herself. She hit a ball right into the rose
bushes. We never heard any more complaints from her about
our ballplaying after that.
My mother and father were both from Norway. They
were already married and had three children when they came
to this country. My dad was Ole Didrikson that's pro-
nounced Oh-lee. I believe his own father was a cabinet maker
in Oslo, but Poppa spent the first part of his life going to sea.
He went around Cape Horn on sailing vessels something
like seventeen times.
What a bang we used to get out of his stories about his
experiencesl We'd huddle around him and listen like mad.
I'm not sure to this day whether he was kidding some of the
time or not. He'd tell us about leaving home and making his
first voyage at the age of nine* He'd describe one trip where
they got stranded on an island, and kept themselves alive by
eating monkeys and things. Then, he'd tell about a voyage
around Cape Horn where his ship broke up in a storm and he
clung to a mast rope by one hand for hours, holding another
guy up with his other hand* It could all be true. Things like
that happened to those old seafarers*
Poppa could do wonderful things with tools. I still have
a beautiful ship model in a bottle that he made in Liverpool,
England, in 1905. He'd get a little ship all made, with the
masts lying down, and slide the ship into the bottle. Then
he'd pull a string that brought the masts up taut, and fasten
it all securely with a special knot.
Poppa let Momma handle the money in our house. She
was a good manager. I never liked to go downtown and get
new shoes with Momma, because she'd buy me a cheap pair.
But when I went with Poppa, why, he'd get me those six-
If Poppa happened to have a little extra change, and us
four youngest ones asked for money to go to a picture show
or something, he'd make us wrestle him for it. We'd all jump
on Poppa and finally get him down, and he'd give us enough
for the movies and popcorn too.
Momma's maiden name was Hannah Marie Olson. She
was the daughter of a shoemaker in Bergen, Norway. She was
a little shorter than I am, about five feet four. You could tell
by the way she handled herself that she was a natural ath-
lete. When I was grown up, I once got her to try swinging a
golf club. She had the prettiest swing you ever saw for some-
one who'd never done it before.
When I got to be a sports champion, Poppa would kid
around and say, "Well, she must get it from me." But I think
that as far as athletics are concerned, I probably took after
my mother. I understand she was considered the finest woman
ice skater and skier around her part of Norway. When she
was little, her dad couldn't afford to buy her skis, so he made
her a pair out of barrel staves. She'd get on them and go like
the wind from where she lived down into the city.
Skiing is one sport I never got to try myself until 1948,
when I was appearing in the Sportsmen's Show in Boston.
I was connected with a shoe company near there the Adams
Company, of Amherst, New Hampshire, which was making
a line of Babe Zaharias golf shoes. I was staying with Mr.
Adams' sister. She had three children who were very good
skiers, and she was a skier herself.
One day we went out to teach me skiing. A Boston sports-
writer who watched us wrote that I was catching on pretty
fast. Naturally I didn't try the big hills or anything like that.
And I took my tumbles. Once I was coming down the first
hill, which was about a hundred yards or so. I'd have run
right into a barbwire fence if I hadn't jumped. They told me
it was the prettiest jump they ever saw for not landing on
Momma's own skiing ended when she came to Texas,
of course. The way that happened was this. After she and
Poppa were married and raising a family in Oslo, one of his
voyages was on an oil tanker that went to Port Arthur in
Texas. He really liked it down there on the Gulf of Mexico.
When he got back to Oslo, he told Momma that as soon as
he could get enough money together, he was going to bring
them all to Port Arthur to live.
Momma got excited about the idea too. Finally they
saved enough money to come over. They landed in Port
Arthur with their three kids, Dora and Esther Nancy and
young Ole* One of the first things that caught Momma's eye,
right as she stepped off the pier, was a beautiful potato bowl
in a store window. It was the old-fashioned kind with a lid
on it and an opening for the ladle. Poppa bought Momma
that potato bowl, and I have it in my own house today. It's
cracked and all, but I wouldn't part with it for anything.
The Didriksons settled right down in Port Arthur. Poppa
gave up the sea and went into furniture refinishing, follow-
ing his father's old trade. Momma and Poppa lived in differ-
ent houses in Port Arthur. They rented for a while, and then
Poppa built a two-story house that looked like a ship. Every
house that we lived in had to have a flagpole. America was
Poppa's country now, and he always wanted the flag out on
the Fourth of July and Armistice Day and all the other holi-
In Port Arthur the family increased. First there were the
twins, Louis and Lillie. Then I arrived on June 26, 1914
Mildred Ella Didrikson. Finally there was Arthur. He was
"Bubba," for little brother. I was "Baby." They were still
calling me "Baby" when I was in school, until Momma said
I was getting too old for a nickname like that. Then they
switched to my regular name, Mildred, or Millie. The "Babe"
came later, when I began hitting home runs in ball games.
Babe Ruth was the big hero then, and the kids said, "She's
a regular Babe Ruth. Well call her Babe."
We picked up and moved seventeen miles from Port
Arthur to Beaumont when I was about three and a half. The
thing I remember best from the Port Arthur days is that we
had a next-door neighbor who was the fireman, and kept the
fire truck in his back yard. He also had a bull which he kept
in a vacant lot. I must have teased that bull, because it would
get loose and chase me. I'd run and jump up on the fire truck
where the bull couldn't get at me. I'd stay there until some-
one took the bull away and lifted me down.
In Beaumont Poppa bought a little two-bedroom house
on Doucette Street. I think he paid something like $2500
for it back there around 1918. It was two bedrooms, kitchen,
dining room, living room. That wasn't really big enough for
a family the size of ours, and Poppa kept adding onto it
until it became the biggest house on the block.
He started off by building a big enclosed porch all the
way around the back. I'd say it was about forty feet by
twenty-five or thirty feet. He put beds out there for the boys,
so the girls could have one of the bedrooms. But that still
meant that four of us were sleeping in the one room. So he
finally partitioned the porch and put the girls in one half and
the boys in the other. It was real fresh-air sleeping. That
porch had twenty-eight windows in it.
When I was recovering from my cancer operation in the
hospital in Beaumont in 1953, and got well enough to be taken
for automobile rides by my husband George and Betty Dodd,
I had them drive me down to Doucette Street. Betty found a
spot in the pavement where I'd drawn "M.E.D.-A,S.D/*
the initials of myself and my brother Arthur, I'd drawn the
date too. I think it was 1926.
I often visit the old block when I'm in Beaumont. IVe
gone through the house we lived in. The people who own.
it now have made a lot of changes, of course, but it still
looks mighty familiar.
The whole neighborhood still looks familiar, although
if s changed a lot too. Mconaschclla's store isn't there any-
more. That was a grocery run by this Italian family. One of
the things we used to love was roller skating, and the best
place for it was the pavement outside Maxnaschella's. We'd
have regular skating parties there the Maxnoschclla kids and
all the rest of us. You'd whip along where the bananas were
hanging and grab one as you went by. The Mamaschellas
never could figure out why their bananas kept disappearing
When I was a little kid Yd sometimes do odd jobs in
the store. I'd measure out things like potatoes and rice and
sugar and flour. I'd weigh them and put them up in bags
one pound, five pounds, ten pounds or whatever was wanted.
They'd pay me off in candy and stuff like that which I gen-
erally had no pennies to buy.
Right across the street from us lived this woman who
had been a circus performer. Her name was Aunt Minnie.
She did an aerial act where she'd hang by her teeth at the
top of the tent, and they'd spin her around. And she did this
250-foot slide, still holding by the teeth, and they caught
her down below. She was the aunt of our friend Christine
When the circus came to town Aunt Minnie would take
the whole bunch of us and show us everything. Then we'd
come back home and try to do the acrobatics ourselves. Any-
thing athletic I always seemed to enjoy. We'd put on union
suits, like circus tights. I remember one year we hung a
whole series of trapezes in a Chinaberry tree Momma had
planted in our back yard. We had one swing after another.
We killed that tree, and it's a wonder we didn't kill ourselves,
because we fell on our heads and everything.
I've never had a broken arm or leg or any other bad
injury in my whole life. I don't know how I escaped it, when
I think of some of the stunts we pulled as kids. We'd catch
a ride on a horse and wagon out to the old saw mill to pick
blackberries for Momma to can. We'd pick the berries real
fast, and then play all day long In the sawdust pile. It was as
big as a house. We'd get to the top and then practically throw
ourselves down it
Once they were building a new house in the neighbor-
hood, and we were playing follow-the-leader there. They
almost always had me be the leader. Just the framework of the
house was up the studs and the flat rafters. I led the kids in
climbing all over there. There was a sand pile alongside the
house. I jumped into it from the top of the house. There was a
sliver of wood in the sand pile, and it went right into the
side of my leg. I still have the scar it's the shape of a golf
But after I had that taken care of, I was back out there
leading them the next day. I started up to the top of the house
again, and missed my step, and came down on my side with
a terrible thump. My whole leg was skinned and bruised. I'd
have got a whipping for sure after messing myself up a second
time like that, if they hadn't found when I got home that I
had three cracked ribs.
We lived like the average American family of twenty-five
and thirty years ago. Every Saturday night you took your
main bath of the week to clean the outside of your body, and
then every other Sunday you had to take a dose of castor oil
to clean out the inside. Two of us got the castor oil on one
Sunday, and the other two the next. The oldest three were let
off. Those that didn't get the castor oil had to go to Sunday
school We didn't like that either we'd rather have spent the
whole day playing,
A bottle of castor oil went pretty fast, with the great big
tablespoon Poppa used for dishing it out, I'm telling you, he
really had to go look for us when he came around with that
bottle! We'd be hiding behind chairs or under a bed or
something. But he'd find us wherever we were, and make us
swallow it down. After the castor oil, we each got half an
orange. Then Poppa would have us drink some hot black
coffee. He made sure we got cleaned out, all right.
Much as I hated castor oil, I remember that the first
radio entertainer I liked, back when I was seven or eight
years old, was a harmonica player who called himself Castor
Oil Clarence. When they had crystal sets, one of my brothers
made one. I used to lie in bed with the earphones on every
Friday night and listen to that harmonica playing. It just
I wanted a harmonica myself, but my dad couldn't spare
the money for one. So I took our lawn mower and went out
and cut some neighbors' grass. The grass was so high that I
had to use a sickle on it before I could mow it And I earned
enough money to get me a harmonica. I believe I paid about
thirty-five cents for it. The same harmonica today would cost
two dollars or more.
I'd lie in our hammock in the back yard and practice.
"Home Sweet Home" was the first piece I learned to play,
and then "Old Black Joe** and "Way Down Upon The Swanee
River/* I was going to get me a radio program like Castor Oil
Clarence. I never did do that, but I got to where I could
play pretty good.
At first I just practiced my harmonica in the hammock or
on the back porch, but finally I*d go out on the front porch
where the family could hear me. Our whole family was
musical. My brothers played the drums. Two sisters played the
piano, and the other played the violin. Poppa could play the
violin too. Momma sang.
We had a family orchestra going there on the front
porch at night after dinner. We put out some real Southern
music. That's what Beaumont is a real Southern town.
Other kids would gather around in our front yard. And you
could see the lights going off in houses all up and down the
block as people got through with their dishes, and came out
on their own porches to listen.
It was just a wonderful family life we had there. I don't
mean that we didn't have our little spats, or that there were
never any bad times for the Didriksons. There were times
when things were plenty tough.
The toughest period for the Didrikson family
came when I was still a little kid. For several years there
Poppa couldn't get work regularly. He had to go back to sea
now and again when he couldn't find any jobs in Beaumont
And Momma took in washing.
All of us pitched in and helped her,, so she wouldn't wear
herself out. Little as I was, Td wear my knuckles down scrub-
bing on that wash board. We'd wash the clothes and rinse
them and hang them out, and then while that was drying
we'd do another wash.
Momma had a friend in Port Arthur named Mrs. Hanson.
She was Norwegian too. I remember her husband had a great
big mustache. He was a chef on some big passenger liner.
I think Mrs. Hanson was the only close friend my mother had.
Momma was more interested in young kids than in people
her own age. Every neighborhood she lived in, the kids were
just crazy about her,
Anyway, during that tough period Mrs. Hanson would
come up from Port Arthur for dinner several times a week
and bring a big roast or something. Her husband was away
most of the time, and making good money, and they had
only one daughter of their own. Even when the husband was
home, they'd visit us as much as three or four times a week,
and they not only brought the food, Mr, Hanson would in-
sist on fixing the meal himself.
Mrs. Hanson came to see Momma a lot both in good times
and bad. They'd rest in Momma's bedroom while us kids
were supposed to be doing the same on the porch. Poppa had
put in a French door between the bedroom and the porch so
Momma could keep an eye on us. She and Mrs. Hanson would
be reading and gabbing. When they didn't want us to know
what they were saying, they'd talk in Norwegian.
Mrs. Hanson loved to have me scratch her head. Yd do
that by the hour for her, and she*d give me a quarter. I knew
when she came to visit that I was going to get a quarter, and
also that she would bring some coffee cake for all of us.
Except for that one bad spell, we always had plenty to
eat, although it generally was on the plain side. Momma had
to go in a lot for things like soup that were inexpensive, but
filling and nourishing.
The meal that I think helped keep us all healthy and
strong was a big, thick bowl of oatmeal every morning. My
dad would get up about six o*clock and put the double boiler
on for the oatmeal. And he'd put the coffee on, and bring
Momma her coffee in bed. She always got that, and I've
been getting it all my grown-up life too.
Poppa would start the oatmeal cooking, and set out the
bowls around the table. There were six bowls. The oldest
child, Dora, wanted eggs instead. She was already working,
and contributing six dollars a week for her room and board.
When the oatmeal was ready, Poppa would dish it out in the
bowls. He'd put butter in the middle and sugar on the top,
and cover each bowl with a plate to keep it warm. By the
time we got down it was all nice and melted. We were always
hungry as bears. We'd gobble up the oatmeal, and a couple
of slices of bread, and be all set to start the day.
Another dish we grew up on was the Norwegian meat
balls that Momma made. She'd take ground meat and cracker
crumbs, and mix it with chopped onions and chopped green
peppers and things of that sort. She'd let the meat balls brown
and simmer a long time, and serve them with onion gravy.
I make them myself today, except that now I add a lot of
tomato paste and stuff to build up the flavor. And since I
married George, whose family was Greek, I've learned to
use a Greek herb called oregano. But Momma made her meat
balls the plain way, which is very good.
There'd always be some left over the next day. When
we got home from school, we'd slice up those meat balls and
anything else that was around, and make ourselves sandwiches
big enough to throw Dagwood for a loss.
Then there was Jule kaka, which is Norwegian for Yule
cake, or Christmas cake. Momma would make twenty or
thirty loaves of it at a time. It was the best stuff. One of my
brother's wives bakes it now, almost like Momma used to. I've
tried it a couple of times myself , but I haven't been able to
hit it right. I'd start out with a great big pan of dough and
come out with one little loaf.
Poppa loved fish balls. Eveiy Friday on his way home
from work he'd stop by the fish market and bring home a big
red snapper or a cod or something. If he wasn't able to get to
the market himself, he'd send one of us down for it. In those
days you just bought a fish it wasn't cleaned or anything.
Poppa would scale it and clean it, and then I'd generally have
to grind it up for the fish balls. Momma would mix in potatoes
and tilings to stretch it.
If we happened to have a turkey or a chicken,, it always
seemed to be my turn to kill it. We'd hang it up and let it
dry, and then put hot water on it and pick the feathers. When
it got on the table I wouldn't be able to eat any, I couldn't
stand to kill something like that and then eat it.
There were plenty of chores for all of us to do. When
family washday came, each of the girls had certain things to
iron. My job was to iron the boys' khaki shirts and pants. With
three or four for each boy every week, that got kind of rough.
Momma was a good organizer. She'd divide up the work
so that everything got done. And we didn't realize it them,
but she was also teaching us. She was showing us that every-
one has responsibilities in life. Everyone has jobs they must
At night wo all had to shine our shoes, I wore mine to
school;, but I was barefoot the rest of the time, except on
Sundays, We'd have that polish box out, and everybody would
be trying to shine their shoes at once. And we had to take
turns at sliming Momma's shoes and Poppa's shoes.
There were those twenty-eight windows in the porch to
be washed every Saturday, and the grocery shopping to be
done. We'd go down to a store near the Magnolia Refinery.
My mother would make out the list, and Lillie and I would go
down there with this little wagon. We'd get it loaded way up,
I remember that the bill for a week's shopping would corne to
sixteen or seventeen dollars, and Yd think, "My gosh, all that
money for this!" Nowadays the same load of groceries would
probably cost you fifty or sixty dollars.
Another job was scrubbing floors. Poppa put in linoleum
floors because they'd be easier to clean than wooden ones.
Momma always believed in scrubbing the floor on your hands
and knees. And you had to wash the woodwork all the time,
and get in the corners. She'd tell me, "Don't let that dirt in
the corner laugh at you! Get it out!"
I'd have that big back porch to scrub, and I'd get out
there with the bucket and the scrub brushes. I'd put soap
suds all over it, and if Momma wasn't watching, I'd take
a run and slide the length of the floor. It scares me to death
to think about it now, because there were these metal strips
which held the linoleum in place. Once I slit my knee wide
open sliding around like that.
And I'd fasten scrub brushes to my feet, and skate
around on the soap suds. Sometimes I'd be in a hurry to go
out and play, and I'd skimp the job. Momma would see the
marks on the floor where I hadn't rinsed it real good. She'd
take me by the ear and lead me over to it and say, "Babe,
look at that. Is that right?" And I'd say, "No, ma'am, that's
not right. But I had to leave. The ball game was going to
start." She'd say, "Well, you go do it now. And do it right."
My parents were sweetly strict. Once Momma made me
a nice new dress. I went off to school in it, and then after
school I played in it. I snagged it on something and tore it.
When I came home Momma was in the kitchen cooking
supper. A couple o days before she'd had an accident getting
off the streetcar. The door caught her foot they closed it too
fast and she sprained her ankle. So Momma was in the
kitchen, trying to hobble around on this great big swollen
ankle. And here I came in all dirty, and with a big tear in my
brand new dress.
She just blew up. She started after me, trying to run on
that ankle. I said, "Momma, don't run. Ill wait for you." She
came up to me, and was going to spank inc. Then she looked at
me and began to laugh. She said, "I can't whip you."
We all just loved Momma, and Poppa too. We were
forever hugging them and all that. I'd go lie in bed with
Momma when I was little. She'd say "Mtn Babe. My best girl,"
That "min* is Norwegian for my.
Some families don't show their love for each other. Ours
always did. Momma and Poppa lived on for their kids, and
they had that love from their kids all their lives. When my
brothers were grown up and married, and came back on visits,
they'd never come into the house or leave it without hugging
and kissing Momma. Two of my brothers were working there
in Beaumont, and they'd stop by every morning on their way
to the job and have a cup of coffee with Momma.
We gave my mother and clad plenty of headaches while
we were growing up, the way kids always do. On Halloween
we'd go out and do this trick-or-treat stuff. At our house
Momma always had a whole dishpanful of cookies for the
neighborhood kids* Some other places we'd turn on out-
door faucets and upset garbage cans and things like that.
One of our Halloween stunts was to soap the rails where
the streetcar ran on Doucette Street. I used to love to run with
that streetcar anyway, and see if I could beat it from stop to
stop. Doucette Street was a muddy road then they've paved
We'd soap those tracks, so that the streetcar would slide
and have to slow down or stop. Then we'd catch onto the
back of the car, and pull the trolley pole down off the wire.
The motorman would have to get out and fix it. I guess he
knew he was in for it when he hit our block on Halloween
night. But he probably had the same thing all the way down
One Halloween I was dressed up in an old shirt and pair
of pants that belonged to my brother Louis. Poppa had to
work late that night, and when the streetcar came down
Doucette Street, Poppa was on it. The car started to slip and
slide, and he could see me running alongside it. And I slipped
and fell in the mud, and almost went under the car. But aU
Poppa could really recognize there in the dark was Louis'
clothes. So he thought I was Louis.
Poppa was furious. He jumped off that streetcar and I
lit out for home. I got in and warned Louis, and he went and
crawled under the porch where Poppa couldn't get at him.
Louis wouldn't come out, and he wouldn't tattle on me, either.
But I couldn't stand that very long. I said to Poppa, "That
wasn't Louis you saw out there. It was me wearing Louis*
Then I dashed out and got under the porch. I told Louis,
"You can come out now. Poppa knows it was me instead of
you." And I stayed under that porch the longest time. I
finally got off without a whipping. I guess that was because
I'd confessed instead of letting Louis take the blame.
Even during the times when we were sort of poor, my
mother would never dream of accepting any kind of charity.
Those meals the Hansons used to bring were all right, be-
cause we'd all sit down and eat together. It was a sociable
occasion among friends. But nobody could just give us food or
clothing. Momma would tell us, 4<t Don ? t you ever dare take any
old clothes from anybody/'
There was one time in grade school when all the girls
were wearing big wide pleated skirts that would flare way
out when you spun around. I wanted to make one, but I
didn't have any material Momma had gone to Port Arthur
for the day to visit Mrs. Hanson. A girl named Anna Louise
Mansfield across the street said I could have an old hounds-
tooth wool skirt of hers to work on.
1 took that skirt and cut it up and put more pleats in it
than you ever saw. I could work our sewing machine real
good. I was hurrying to get done before Momma came home.
I pressed in my pleats, and the skirt turned out just fine. It
was the fullest in the whole neighborhood. I was out in the
front yard and down at the store, showing everybody how it
would flare straight out,
When Momma got back and saw me, she said, **Babe,
where did you get that skirt?"
I said, "Momma, this is Anna Louise's old skirt. I made me
a flare skirt out of it w
I guess she figured I'd put so much of my own work into
it that it wasn't just charity. She said, "All right. That's fine.
You did a good job on it." Slue let me keep it, and 1*11 bet I
wore that skirt for five years* I just loved it*
I know us kids were a lot of trouble to raise. But I think
we realized more than some kids do that Momma and Poppa
had it pretty hard, and that we should try to help them. What
really drove it home to me more than anything else was some-
thing I did the day of Lillie's graduation from grade school
The graduation exercises were at night, and Momma sent me
to the store before dinner to get some ground meat.
Going to the store on last-minute errands like that was
one of my specialties. If it was just to the corner grocery, I'd
get a big kick out of showing how fast I could make it. I'd
run all the way and start hollering what I wanted before I
even got inside the store, so they could have it ready and
toss it to me as I came in the door. Then I'd run right back
home, and sometimes they'd say, "What, back already? Why,
you only just left."
This particular time I'm talking about, though, I had to
go ten blocks to the store near the Magnolia Refinery. Momma
was getting everything all ready for us to go to the gradua-
tion exercises. She was laying out clothes for Poppa and
herself and the kids. And then she discovered she'd forgotten
to get the meat for supper, which had to be served early if we
were going to make the exercises. So she told me, "Here, go
get some ground meat at the store. I need it for supper and I
need it fast/'
I got down there all right, and then on the way back I
saw some kids playing ball in the school yard. I stopped to
watch for a minute, and the next thing I knew I was in there
I laid the package of meat down on the ground. I was
only going to play a couple of minutes, but they stretched
into an hour. Along came Momma down the street looking
for me. I said, "I got the meat, Momma. It's right here." Then
I looked where I'd left it, and there was a dog eating up the
last of that meat.
Poor Momma! She couldn't quite catch me, so she picked
up an old piece of rope that was lying on the ground and
swung it at me. She whipped me all the way home with
that rope. I was running as fast as I could go to stay ahead of
her, but she could run fast too.
She cooled off in a few minutes. She never stayed mad
very long. But I felt real bad about the way I'd let her down
on a night when she had so much to do. I resolved that from
then on I was going to do everything in my power for her.
When I was a little bigger, I'd get jobs after school. So
did the others. I was in junior high school, about twelve or
thirteen years old, and a girl in my class told me that kids
could get work in the fig-packing plant in Beaumont.
So I went down there and got a job. I guess they didn't
have any child-labor laws in Texas then. My pay was about
thirty cents an hour. They'd run these figs down a trough in
acid water, and you'd work in it with your hands. You'd peel
the bad spots off the figs, and clean them real good, and then
let them run on down.
Most of the workers there were using rubber gloves, but
I didn't have any, and I had to work a while before I could
buy some. So my hands got all sore. I asked if I couldn't do
some other job, and they gave me one which I did like.
There was this great big trough where they rolled down gal-
lon cans or whatever size they were canning that day. I was
the one who sat up top and unloaded the cans from the cases
and kept a steady stream of them rolling down. When the
cans got stuck, I'd come down with a great big cane and undo
the jam. Sometimes they'd holler, "They're coming too fast."
Then I'd hold up for a while and stack a lot of cans on the
rack, so I'd be all set when they were ready again.
Then I found out that I could make more money by
going over to the potato gunnysack factory, where you sew up
these sacks. The man there thought I was too young at first,
but I persuaded him to give me a chance. He brought me a
bunch of sacks to start on, and I said, "Bring me a couple
more. I don't want to have to wait when I get through with
these." He said that one bunch would be enough to hold me
for a while, but I insisted, and finally he gave me some more.
It was piece work a penny a bag, or something like
that. I could sew up those sacks faster than anybody else. I was
making sixty-seven, sixty-eight cents an hour. The boss knew
I was interested in sports, and he told me, "Any time you
want to take off and play, go ahead/' So I did, and then I'd
work overtime and everything to make up for it.
Td keep a nickel or a dime for myself out of what I made,
and put the rest in Momma's sugar bowl. I'd tell her, "I
don't want you to spend it on groceries or anything like that,
I want you to buy little things for yourself." But she never
did. She saved all of it for me, and when the time came that
I needed something, she'd have the money right there.
Before I was even into my teens, I knew exactly what I
wanted to be when I grew up. My goal was to be the greatest
athlete that ever lived. I suppose I was born with the urge to
get into sports, and the ability to do pretty well at it. And my
dad helped to swing me in that direction. He followed the
sports news in the papers, and he'd talk to us about it. I be-
gan reading the sports pages when I was very young myself.
I can remember that even then I was interested in the famous
golfers the men like Walter Hagen and Bobby Jones, and
the women like Joyce Wethered and Glenna Collett and Vir-
ginia Van Wie.
In the summer of 1928 the Olympic Games were being
held in Amsterdam, Holland. Poppa kept reading about the
Olympics in the newspapers,, and telling us about the star
athletes over there.
I got all steamed up. I was fourteen years old at the time.
I said, "Next year I'm going to be in the Olympics myself."
Poppa said, "Babe, you can't. You'll have to wait four
I said, "Well, why? Why can't I be in it next year?" And
he explained to me that the Olympic Games were held four
It sounded like the greatest thing in the world to me
that free trip across the ocean and everything. I didn't know
that the 1932 Olympics would be held in this country in Los
Angeles not that it would have made much difference to me.
Lillie and I started in training for the Olympics right then
She was a tomboy in those days too. One night my brother
Louis was escorting Lillie and me to a school dance. Some
rowdy kids jumped out of an alley at us. They were going
to beat us up. Louis started fighting the four of them all by
himself, but Lillie and I waded in there with him. We ran
those kids right off.
Anyway, back in 1928 when we started thinking about
the Olympics, Lillie was going to be a runner and I was
going to be a hurdler and jumper. I never was too good at
straightaway running. I didn't seem to want to stay on the
ground. I'd rather jump some obstacle.
There were hedges in the yards along our block seven
of them between our house and the corner grocery. I used
those hedges to practice hurdling. But there was one of them
that was higher than the others. I couldn't get over it. That
sort of messed up my practicing. So I went to the people who
lived in that house. Their name was King. I asked Mr. King
if he'd mind cutting his hedge down to where the rest of
them were, and he did it.
You're supposed to put your leg out straight when you
hurdle. But a regular hurdle is just half an inch or three-
quarters of an inch thick. These hedges were about two feet
across. So I had to crook my left knee that was the leg I
always took off on or I'd scratch myself up. That style of
hurdling stayed with me. When I did get to the Olympics they
tried to have me change, but I wouldn't do it.
I'd go flying over those hedges, and Lillie would race
alongside me on the pavement. She was a fast runner, and
had an advantage anyway because I had to do all that
jumping. I worked and worked, and finally got to where I
could almost catch her, and sometimes beat her.
I didn't beat her very often, though, because she had too
much fight in her to want to lose. Lillie was a competitor. The
whole Didrikson family was like that. All the boys were
athletically inclined. Ole played on one of the first profes-
sional football teams in the state of Texas. Louis was a cham-
pion boxer in the Texas National Guard. Arthur started out to
be a professional baseball player, but had to quit because of
some trouble with his eye.
I don't guess I have to tell you that I was a pretty com-
petitive type myself.
All my life I've always had the urge to do
things better than anybody else. Even in school, if it was
something like making up a current-events booklet., I'd want
mine to be the best in the class. I remember once I turned one
in with hand-drawn maps and everything, and my teacher,
Mrs. Rummell, wrote on it, "Babe, your work is beautiful. A
My sister Lillie had to make a current-events booklet in
her class too, and she hadn't got around to it. So we erased
what Mrs, Rummell had written on my book, and Lillie took
it to school.
She never got to hand it in. Her teacher was Mrs, Rum-
melTs sister, and when Lillie walked up to the desk to turn
in that book, the teacher said, "Lillie, I've already seen that
one, and I think Babe did a wonderful job on it."
In home economics we had cooking one time and sewing
the next. In sewing class everybody had to make a dress one
year, and I decided that mine was going to be the most com-
plicated of them all. I'd already had a lot of experience sewing
things at home.
The men probably won't be able to follow this, but it had
a double yoke and an open collar in V-shaped form that could
be opened or closed. The yoke across the front was filled with
small box pleats eight of them. The dress had short elbow
sleeves. It was form-fitted down to the waist, then flared a bit
at the hips. I had a little belt with it.
It was a blue-silk dress. Your hands were supposed to be
immaculate in sewing class, because the dresses could not be
cleaned. When I was almost finished, one little spot of oil did
leak on it from the sewing machine. But it was on the inside
where it didn't show. That was the dress of mine that took a
prize at the Texas State Fair.
I liked the sewing, but at the beginning I didn't like the
cooking part of home economics. Eventually it got pretty in-
teresting, but at first it was mostly how to wash dishes and
clean pots and pans and keep the cupboards neat. When the
teacher. Miss Whitaker, left the room for a minute, I'd sneak
out once in a while and go play basketball or something.
Then she caught me at it. She said, "You want a recess
hour every hour, don't you?" She punished me by spanking
me on the calves of the legs with a ruler. She said, "Don't ever
do that again, or I'll have to spank you harder."
I know she liked me, and I liked her, except that I wasn't
enjoying the cooking class. It was just a course I had to take.
I said, "You better spank me good, because I may do it again/'
And she looked at me and broke out laughing.
One time I really came a cropper in home economics was
the day a rat got in the supply pantry. I said I'd go in there
with a broom and get it. So I went in, and before I knew it,
that rat had me backed into a corner. It reared up on its
haunches at me. Man, all my braveness left me! I ran out of
there and down the stairs. I never would go near that pantry
I always got pretty good marks in school, although I was
more interested in the games than in the studies. The first
organized team of any sort that I was on was the marching
team in grade school. We'd march to band music. I was the
leader, and I had a special uniform. I've always loved uniforms
and band music, It gives me goose pimples to hear the music
at a football game, or a military band playing something like
"The Stars and Stripes Forever/'
I went through Magnolia grade school in Beaumont, and
then to South End Junior High. There were two junior high
schools the South End and the North End. The South End
is David Crockett Junior High today. There was just the one
high school, Beaumont High,
When I was in the grade school, both the junior-high and
the high-school girls' basketball teams had to come over to
Magnolia to practice. Today the Magnolia school is con-
demned. I went by there not long ago, and they had a big
cyclone fence around what used to be our play yard. But in
my day it was the newest and best. We had four outdoor
basketball courts and a big gym inside.
When those high-school girls came over to our courts to
practice, I was just dying to get in and play with them. I'd
hang around and pester them. Finally they did let me in, and
I made a few scores and everything. They said they wished I
was old enough and in a higher grade, so I could play on their
In junior high school I made the basketball team, but
when I got to Beaumont High they said I was too small. All
of us Didrikson kids seemed to get our growth late. Even in
the Olympics, when I was eighteen, I wasn't much over five
feet tall, and weighed only 105 pounds.
I couldn't accept the idea that I wasn't good enough for
the basketball team. I didn't think the girls who played on it
were anything wonderful. I was determined to show every-
body. To improve myself, I went to the coach of the boys*
team, Lil Dimmitt. I said to myself, "The men know more
about basketball than the women."
I'd use my study hours to go practice basketball. I'd show
the teacher that I had my homework all done, and get ex-
cused from the study hall. I'd go where Coach Dimmitt was,
and say, "Coach, how about watching me for a while?" Td
worry him to death with questions about how to pivot and
shoot free throws and do this and that. He took the time to
help me, because he could see I was interested.
He went from Beaumont High to Baylor University. He's
in the insurance business now I saw him a few years ago
at a dinner down in Texas. He could still remember how I
used to get out there in a little T shirt and practice basketball.
I'd be barefooted, because I didn't have any tennis shoes. He'd
show me how to do different things, and encourage me, and
I'd say, "Coach Dimmitt, tell those women I can play basket-
When the high school boys practiced, he'd tell me, "You
sit down here and watch these boys play." I remember how I
used to admire Raymond Alf ord I met him again at that same
dinner where I saw Coach Dimmitt. Raymond was the star
athlete of the whole high school. He wasn't my boy friend or
anything. I didn't have any boy friends then. I was just a
fourteen-year-old kid, and I was too busy learning to dribble
and pass and shoot baskets.
I was a junior before they finally gave me a chance on the
Beaumont High girls' team. And I was the high scorer from the
start. We went to different towns to play girls at other high
schools, and we beat them all. I got my first newspaper write-
upa Httle item headed, BEAUMONT GIRL STARS IN
BASKETBALL GAME. Then it was, BEAUMONT GIRL
STARS AGAIN. I became all-city and all-state in basketball
Down in Dallas, Col. M. J. McCombs saw those write-ups
and decided to take a look at me. He's dead now. He was the
boss of a department in an insurance firm, the Employers
Casualty Company, and he also was director of the women's
athletic program. He put in a lot of time on it after the regular
office hours. He read about me scoring thirty and forty points
in these high-school games, and he wanted to see if I was
good enough to help their basketball team, which had finished
second the year before in the women's national A. A.U. tourna-
He went to Houston one afternoon to watch us play the
Houston Heights high-school girls. This was in February
1930, I wasn't sixteen yet. That Houston Heights team was
made up of big, tall girls, like the name of the school I was
still small, but I was fast, and I could run right around those
girls. I scored something like twenty-six points in that game,
Trip to the Ktoon. A tribe of Didrik-
sons ride the moon. That's Louis, Ole
and Arthur up front with sister Lillie
and me behind. This was at the Beau-
mont fairgrounds. I was six.
Following a cloudburst in our neighborhood. Lillie and me (with the lovely
Dutch cut) flank brothers Arthur and Louis. The rest are neighbors.
Making the winning broad jump in the Women's National Track Championships at
Jersey City in '31. It was my medal hunting in this meet that started the sportswriters
Kfc15. ' * >, f >
The payoff on all that hedgehopping. En route to a new world's record
of 11.8 seconds in the 80-meter hurdles at the '32 Games.
Proud? You bet. Flanking me on the
winner's platform at Los Angeles
are Evelyn Hall of the U,S,A. and
| Marjorie Clark of South Africa.
My first recorded game of golf with (L to R) Grantland
Rice, Paul Gallico, Westbrook Pegler and Braven Dyer.
Granny took me as his partner. Somehow, we carried
International News Photo
Home-coming. Sister Lillie, Poppa, me and Mother in a happy mood after
the '32 Olympics,
Wide World Photo
I feel as bad as I look. Having learned that I'd been suspended by the
National Amateur body for verbally endorsing an automobile, I watch
my insurance-company basketball team. That's Colonel M. J. McCombs, a
fine, kind person. Also consoling me is Mrs. Henry Wood, our team mother.
Up in lights. Yep, there I was, big as life as a paid entertainer
in a huge movie house in Chicago. I didn't like it enough . . . only
because I liked golf more.
Sometimes, in those early barnstorming days I wasn't sure if people
were laughing with or at me. Jimmy Foxx might have been thinking,
"Go home, girl, and jerk sodas . . ." but he was considerate.
I ,M ,- Ji <" '';"*v , '& t^*^*' s\*i >/'>,* '^Sjffi:'j ; v*"-\ t *'<&>< ,, ' '
g?.;- ;/.;, ;; : ;^%;r? ;:; ^5 ;4;;>%*t'
Stan Kertes is the driving-range pro who took
me in hand when neither of us had a quarter.
This was taken years later in Los Angeles.
Just before the final of the Texas
State tourney in J 35. That's Peggy
Chandler, a swell girl. I won it for
my first golf victory. The title was
sweet . . . but not for long as the
USGA then barred me from amateur
Signing up with the Goldsmith sporting goods people to endorse a line of clubs.
They sent me on tour with Gene Sarazen. I could hit the ball a crooked mile.
International News Photo '
Lloyd Gullickson, Glenna Collett Vare, the Big
Babe and the little one. This was at Sarasota,
Florida-around '36 or; '87 to judge by the skirts,
After the game Colonel McCoinbs came around and in-
troduced himself, and asked if I'd like to play on a real big-
time basketball team.
I said, "Boy, would I! Where?"
He said, "At the Employers Casualty Company in Dallas.
We're getting ready to go into the nationals in March."
I told him that sounded great, and asked what I'd have
to do. He said, "Well, see if you can arrange to get off from
school, and get permission from your mother and dad to go."
"My dad's right here," I told him.
So Colonel McCombs spoke to Poppa, and Poppa said to
me, "Well have to talk this over with Momma. If you get up
there in Dallas, that's a long way from home. You'd best talk
to Momma about this."
Colonel McCombs drove us home to Beaumont in that
big car of his. He had dinner with us Norwegian meat balls
and everything. He told Momma that he thought I could be
a great basketball player, and that he'd like to have me on his
Momma and Poppa told Colonel McCombs that we'd
think it over and let him know. After he'd gone, Momma said,
"Min Babe, do you want to go way up to Dallas?"
I said, "Yeah, Momma, I want to go."
She turned to Poppa. "Oolie mon," she said that was
what her pronunciation of his name sounded like, "what do
He said, *1 think it might be good for Babe."
There was a lot of talking. Momma thought I was too
young to be making a trip like that, but Poppa said he'd travel
along with me. Finally Momma said all right.
It was arranged that I should play out the season with
the Employers Casualty Company, then come back to Beau-
mont and finish up at high school. The school let me take
three weeks out there to play basketball because my marks
were good. I had a B plus average, as I remember.
IVe told you about my train trip to Dallas, and how
Colonel McCombs met us with his car at the station. He
had one of the basketball girls with him, Leona Thaxton,
She was a big guard. We drove to the company's offices in
the Interurban Building. I remember that we went to Room
327. That's where Colonel McCombs' department was. Prac-
tically all the basketball players worked there. I guess that
was to make it easier to round them all up and take off when
there was a basketball trip.
I'd never seen so many large girls large feet, and large
hands. They were really husky. That was a great era of
women's athletics. Nowadays the big sports for women are
tennis, fancy diving, swimming and golf. And those are the
best sports for women some of the others are really too
strenuous for girls. But back there in the 'thirties they made a
big thing out of sports like women's basketball.
Colonel McCombs introduced me to all the girls. One of
them, Lalia Warren, said, "What position do you think you're
going to play?"
So I got a little pepped up there, and I said, "What do
She said, "I'm the star forward."
I said, "Well, that's what I want to be." And that's how it
worked out, too.
Colonel McCombs asked me what kind of office work I
could do. I told him I knew typing and shorthand. I'd taken
that in high school. I wanted to be an athlete, but I didn't sup-
pose then that I could make a living out o it, except maybe
in physical education. I thought I might wind up being a
secretary. I won a gold medal in school for hitting the best
speed on the typewriter. I think it was eighty-six words a
minute. I practiced by typing out "The Story of My Life/'
I was only fourteen or fifteen, and that story ran 42,000
Anyway, Colonel McCombs asked if I could work a slide
rule. I said, "No, but if it's numbers I can learn it quick." And
they wound up assigning me to a job where I used a slide
Then they had me pick out a basketball uniform for
myself, I'd always had No. 7 in high school. I went through
the extra uniforms, and there was No. 7 waiting for me.
Everything seemed to be working to my pattern. The pants
and shirt were too big for me, but I could sew them to fit
all right. I just took the shirt in at the seams a little bit. And
I tucked the pants in and made them fit skin tight, the way I
liked my basketball pants. I was in great condition as a kid.
There wasn't an ounce of fat on me.
I went right into a game that first night. We played the
Sun Oil Company girls, the defending national champions,
in a pre-tournament game. They had some pretty tough
guards. They'd heard about me, and they weren't going to
let this little kid from Beaumont do any shooting at all. They
started hitting me that night, and they kept it up the whole
season. If one guard fouled out against me, they'd send in
But I broke away for my share of shots. We beat them
that first night by a pretty good score. I was the high scorer.
I got four or five points more than the whole Sun Oilers*
team did. From that night on I had it made.
We went on to the national tournament, and met the Sun
Oilers again. This time it was a close game. At that time when
a player was fouled, you could choose anyone on your team
to take the free throw. We had a free-throw specialist, but
late in the game, when we got a foul shot, she and the other
veteran players said to me, "Here, you take it."
So I stepped up to the line, not thinking about it es-
pecially, and missed the shot. It turned out that we lost the
game by one point. I really felt bad about the whole thing,
even though at the end of the tournament I was chosen for
the women's Ail-American basketball team.
I was an All- American basketball player three years in a
row. The second year, 1931, we stayed at the Lasson Hotel in
Wichita, Kansas, during the national tournament. Our first
night there we couldn't get on the court to practice until
pretty late. When we got back to the hotel, I was in such
a hurry to take my shower and get to bed that I began un-
lacing my basketball shoes in the elevator. I kicked my
shoes off as I got in the door, and pulled my socks off and
tossed them in the corner.
The next day I went out and set a record by scoring
more than 100 points against some Sunday School team that
wasn't very good. I was superstitious about things in sports
then I've gotten completely away from that since. For
the rest of the tournament, I did everything the same as
the first night. I'd untie my shoes in the elevator, kick them
off as I came in the room, and throw my socks in the corner.
We went all the way through and won that national
championship in 1931. We got to the finals the next year too,
but lost by three points to Oklahoma Presbyterian College.
In the 1931 finals we beat a team called the Thurstons,
of Wichita, 28-26. In the newspaper they ran this layout with
pictures of the girls on our team. My picture was in the center,
blown up way big. There were just little head shots of the
others. Man, I just loved that! It was the first big publicity
I'd ever had. I cut it out and sent it home to Momma. She
always saved my clippings.
Anyhow, after the first national tournament back there
in 1930 I went home to finish up at Beaumont High, then
came back to Dallas in June to go to work permanently for
the Employers Casualty Company.
I was getting $75 a month salary, and sending $45 of it
home. I paid about $5 a month for a room. I wasn't spending
anything on clothes. I had just the one pair of shoes, and the
leather was beginning to curl. Sometimes a girl would give
me one of her old dresses, and I'd cut it up and make a skirt
out of it for myself.
I lived on Haines Street in the Oak Cliff section of Dallas.
The basketball girls all lived in that neighborhood. We ate
at the same place, Danny Williams' house. He was the as-
sistant coach. His wife did the cooking, and she was a good
cook. I can still remember her pies with graham cracker crust.
We paid 15 cents for breakfast and 35 cents for dinner.
For lunch I always had toasted cupcakes and a coke down in
the drugstore. The guy at the soda fountain would never
charge me for my coke. He'd say, "How about another one,
champ?" That made me feel good, because I wasn't any
Colonel McCombs would drive me to and from work, and
any of the other girls that wanted to go, to save us carfare.
One Saturday morning at the office early that first summer
he said to me, "Babe, what are you doing to occupy yourself
now that the basketball season's over?" I told him I wasn't
doing anything much. He said, "Well, how would you like
to go out to Lakeside Park with me this afternoon and watch
a track meet? 7 '
Here I'd been thinking about the Olympic Games since
1928, and yet I never had seen a track meet. So I went out
there with him, and we stood around watching. I saw this
stick lying on the ground, and I said, "What's that?" Colonel
McCombs said, "It's a javelin. You throw it like a spear/'
He went through the motions for me, and I picked it up
and tried it. I got pretty good distance, but it was so heavy
it was a men's javelin that I slapped my back with it as I
threw it, and raised a welt. Four times I slapped myself on
exactly the same spot. And that welt was really big.
Colonel McCombs took me around and explained some
of the other events. He showed me the high jump and the
hurdles and stuff like that. Those hurdles reminded me of
all the hedge-jumping Yd done back home. I liked the looks
of that event better than almost anything else.
By the time we left, Colonel McCombs was agreeing with
me that it would be a good idea if Employers Casualty had a
women's track and field team, so the girls would have some
athletics during the summer. I'm sure that's what he'd had in
mind all along. He said he'd take it up with Homer R.
Mitchell, the president of the company.
I told him I was going to talk to Mr. Mitchell too. Mon-
day morning I went in and made my pitch, and Mr. Mitchell
said, "Babe, whatever you all want you can have."
So we all got together and started talking about this track
team we were going to organize. One girl said, Tm going to
throw the javelin." Another said, I'm going to throw the
discus/' Another girl thought she'd like to do the hurdles.
When it came around to me, I said, "Colonel, how many
events are there in this track and field?" He said, "Why, Babe,
I think there are about nine or ten/'
I said, "Well, I'm going to do them all."
Everybody nearly died laughing. I talked like that in
those days, and some people thought I was just popping off.
But I was serious. I said it because I thought I could do it.
And in one meet we had, competing for the Texas state cham-
pionship against the Bowen Air Lines girls of Forth Worth,
I entered all ten events and won eight of them.
I took the three weight throws the shot put, the discus
and the javelin. I was first in both the broad jump and the
high jump. I won the 100-yard dash and the 200-yard dash.
In the 50-yard dash I was second. And I was on the losing
team in the relay race.
I really worked hard at that track and field. I trained
and trained and trained. I've been that way in every sport
I've taken up. After dinner I'd go out in my tennis shoes and
run. They had a hill on Haines Street that went down to a
lake. I'd run all the way down there, and then I'd jog all the
way back up. I'd jog my legs real high, and work my arms
high, to get them in shape. Of course, they were already
about as hard as they could be, but I thought they had to be
We had just a few days to get ready for our first meet.
Our regular hour or two of practice in the afternoon wasn't
enough to satisfy me. I'd go out to Lakeside Park at night
and practice by myself until it got dark, which wasn't until
nine or nine-thirty at that time of year. If there was good clear
moonlight, I might keep going even longer.
The last night before that first track meet I went out
and worked extra hard. I practiced my step timing for the
broad jump and for the high jump. I put in about two hours
at that, and then finished off by running the 440 yards. They'd
told me to pace myself in that, but I was going to see if I
couldn't sprint all the way.
Well, I just barely made it to the finish line. I fell face
down on the grass. I was seeing stars. I must have laid there
fifteen or twenty minutes before I could get up.
When I told Colonel McCombs about it the next morn-
ing, he said "What are you trying to do, kill yourself?" And
he told me I should take it easier. But I think he admired me
for working so hard.
I competed in my four events that afternoon, and I won
all four. It was that last extra practice that did it, especially
in the broad jumping and the high jump, where I had my
steps down just right.
I eventually got to be pretty good at the high jump. I
started out doing the old-style scissors jump. One afternoon
I was working out, and I kept going higher and higher.
Finally Colonel McCombs had the cross bar up to the
women's world record. I believe it was five feet, three inches
at that time.
He said, "Babe, tell you what. I'll buy you a chocolate
soda if you can jump this."
I said, "Out of my way!" and sailed right over.
Then I said, **I think I can go higher." He told me to go
ahead and try. I did, but I couldn't make it any more after
that. So we decided that if I was ever going to get above the
record, I'd have to switch from the scissors jump to the
Western roll, which wasn't too common then. In the Western
roll you kick up there and roll over the bar fiat. Under the
high-jump rules they had at that time, your feet had to go
over the bar first.
I was the longest time mastering that Western roll. In
the beginning I'd just dive. I'd go over head first and my feet
would kick up in the air and my body would knock the bar
off coming down. But Colonel McCombs kept working with
me, and I kept practicing, until I was sliding laterally and
bringing my whole body over just the way you were supposed
We went in for other things besides track in Dallas there
during the summers. One of the earliest items in my scrap-
books says, "An exhibition of fancy diving and swimming
stunts will be given at White Rock municipal pool Sunday
afternoon from 3 until 5 o'clock by Mildred Didrikson and
her Employers Casualty girls. In addition the Babe will drive
a motor speed boat in some fancy arcs and later will show
the populace how to handle the bounding and treacherous
I didn't care too much for just swimming, but I did go
for that fancy diving. I won diving events in swimming meets,
and I honestly think I could have qualified for the Olympic
swimming team if I had concentrated on it. I used to do the
double gainer off the regular board, and sometimes the
two-and-a-half gainer. I've done three gainers off the ten-
foot platform. And my optional dive was a stand-sitting-
stand where I'd finish up by^turning around on the board and
doing a back flip into the water.
We also had a team in a girls* softball league there in
Dallas. I hit something like thirteen home runs in one double-
header. Those girls weren't very good fielders, and if you
hit the ball between them it would roll a long way. I was
fast enough to get around the bases before they could throw
it back in.
One thing that got us all started on track and field in
1930 was the fact that the women's national A.A.U. cham-
pionships were going to be held in Dallas that summer on
the Fourth of July. I got in there and won the javelin throw
and the baseball throw. I also broke the world's record in the
broad jump with a leap of eighteen feet, eight-and-a-half
inches. Then Stella Walsh came along a few minutes later
and took first place away from me by jumping a quarter of an
inch farther than that.
In 1931 the championships were held in Jersey City. I
was the leading scorer with three first places. I won the
broad jump this time, although I didn't beat the record. And
I did set records in winning the baseball throw with a heave
of 296 feet, and the 80-meter hurdles with a time of 12
But 1932 was the summer when I was really keyed up
about track and field. That was an Olympic year. The national
championships and the Olympic tryouts were being com-
bined. So the ones who came out ahead in the nationals
would also get to be in the Olympics. There were a lot of
different events that I wanted to compete in*
I was sitting in the office one day thinking about it when
Colonel McCombs buzzed for me. My call was two longs and
two shorts dah-dah-dit-dit Colonel McCombs buzzed for
me often. He'd call me in to work out basketball plays with
him and things like that.
So I went into his office. I said, "Colonel, will I get to go
up to Chicago for the nationals this year?"
He said, "Yes. That's what I wanted to talk to you about.
I've been studying the records of the girls on the other teams
that will be in the meet. I think if you enter enough different
events, and give your regular perf ormance, you can do some-
thing that's never been done before. I believe we can send
you up there to represent the Employers Casualty Company,
and you can win the national championship for us all by
Once when I was playing in the Celebrities
Golf Tournament in Washington a few years ago, they put
me on a program with Hildegarde the singer. We were up
there at the microphone talking, and she said, "Babe, I can't
understand why I don't hit a golf ball as far as you do. It
seems to me I swing my club the same way/'
I said, "Hildegarde, it's not enough just to swing at the
ball YouVe got to loosen your girdle and really let the ball
That line has probably been quoted as much as anything
I ever said, although when writers have used it since, they've
generally had me saying it to tibe reporters right after winning
some big tournament or other. The stories about me some-
times get a little tall in the telling.
Anyway, that girdle crack was meant as a gag, and yet
there was a lot of truth in it. My main idea in any kind of
competition always has been to go out there and cut loose
with everything IVe got. I've always had the confidence that
I was capable of winning out.
One time I really needed my confidence was when Em-
ployers Casualty sent me up to Chicago as a one-girl track
team for those combined 1932 national championships and
Olympic tryouts. The meet was being held at Dyche Stadium,
the Northwestern University field, which is in Evanston, just
I never can recite all the details of my performance that
afternoon without checking the record book, but I can tell
you everything that happened the night before in my hotel
room in Chicago. I couldn't sleep. I kept having severe pains
in my stomach. When I put my hand on it, the hand would
just bounce up and down.
Mrs. Henry Wood was chaperoning me. She was our
"team mother" at Employers Casualty. Naturally she wasn't
doing any sleeping either, the way I was tossing around. She
got worried and called the hotel doctor. She was afraid I
might be coming down with an appendicitis attack or some-
The doctor came and examined me. He said, "There's
nothing wrong with her. She's just all excited. The excitement
is affecting the nerve center in her diaphragm." And that's
what it was. I've found out since that whenever I get all
keyed up like that before an event, it means I'm really ready.
We finally did fall asleep around dawn. And then we
overslept. When we woke up, there was barely time for us
to get ourselves ready and make it out to Evanston for the
start of the meet.
We got down to the front of the hotel as quick as we
could, and jumped into a taxicab. But when we told the driver
we wanted to go to Dyche Stadium, he wouldn't take us. He
said he just operated in Chicago.
So we got out of that cab and tried another one. This
driver agreed to go to Evanston. What with the traffic and
everything, though, it began to look like there wouldn't be
time for me to dress out at the field. There was only one way
we could make sure. Mrs. Wood held up a blanket around me
and I changed into my track suit while we were riding along
in the cab.
In spite of all those difficulties, it was one of those days in
an athlete's life when you know you're just right. You feel
you could fly. You're like a feather floating in air. I wasn't
worried about the fact that of the ten individual events on
the program I was entered in eight, including a couple I'd
hardly ever done before, the shot put and the discus throw.
I was going to be in everything but the fifty-yard and 220-
Mrs. Wood and I just did get there in time for the open-
ing ceremonies. They announced each team over the loud-
speaker, and then the girls on that team would run out on the
track and get a hand. There were over 200 girls there. Some
of those squads had fifteen or more girls. The Illinois
Women's Athletic Club had twenty-two.
It came time to announce my "team." I spurted out there
all alone, waving my arms, and you never heard such a roar.
It brought out goose bumps all over me. I can feel them now,
just thinking about it.
Some of the events that afternoon were Olympic trials.
Others were just National A.A.U. events. But they all counted
in the team point scoring. So they were all important to me
if I was going to bring back the national championship for
For two-and-a-half hours I was flying all over the place.
Td run a heat in the eighty-meter hurdles, and then I'd take
one of my high jumps. Then I'd go over to the broad jump
and take a turn at that. Then they'd be calling for me to
throw the javelin or put the eight-pound shot.
Well, there were several events I didn't figure to do too
much in. One was the 100-meter dash, and I drew a blank
there, although I just missed qualifying for the finals. I was
edged out for third place in my semifinal heat.
But that was the only thing I got shut out in. Even in
the discus, which wasn't a specialty of mine at all, I placed
fourth to pick up an extra point. And I actually won the shot
put, which was a big surprise. A girl named Rena Mac-
Donald was supposed to be the best woman shot putter, but
I beat her out with a throw of thirty-nine feet, six-and-a-
I won the championship in the baseball throw for the
third straight year. My distance was 272 feet, two inches.
Then in three Olympic trial events I broke the world's record.
In two of them it was a case of beating a record that I already
held myself. I threw the javelin 139 feet, three inches, which
was nearly six feet better than my old mark of 133 feet, five
and-a-half inches. I won an eighty-meter hurdle heat in 11.9
overslept. When we woke up, there was barely time for us
to get ourselves ready and make it out to Evanston for the
start of the meet.
We got down to the front of the hotel as quick as we
could, and jumped into a taxicab. But when we told the driver
we wanted to go to Dyche Stadium, he wouldn't take us. He
said he just operated in Chicago.
So we got out of that cab and tried another one. This
driver agreed to go to Evanston. What with the traffic and
everything, though, It began to look like there wouldn't be
time for me to dress out at the field. There was only one way
we could make sure, Mrs. Wood held up a blanket around me
and I changed into my track suit while we were riding along
in the cab.
In spite of all those difficulties, it was one of those days in
an athlete's life when you know you're just right. You feel
you could fly. You're like a feather floating in air. I wasn't
worried about the fact that of the ten individual events on
the program I was entered in eight, including a couple Fd
hardly ever done before, the shot put and the discus throw.
I was going to be in everything but the fifty-yard and 220-
Mrs. Wood and I just did get there in time for the open-
ing ceremonies. They announced each team over the loud-
speaker, and then the girls on that team would ran out on the
track and get a hand. There were over 200 girls there. Some
of those squads had fifteen or more girls. The Illinois
Women's Athletic Club had twenty-two.
It came time to announce my "team," I spurted out there
all alone, waving my arms, and you never heard such a roar.
It brought out goose bumps all over me. I can feel them now,
just thinking about it.
Some of the events that afternoon were Olympic trials.
Others were just National A.A.U. events. But they all counted
in the team point scoring. So they were all important to me
if I was going to bring back the national championship for
For two-and-a-half hours I was flying all over the place.
I'd run a heat in the eighty-meter hurdles, and then Yd take
one of my high jumps. Then I'd go over to the broad jump
and take a turn at that. Then they'd be calling for me to
throw the javelin or put the eight-pound shot.
Well, there were several events I didn't figure to do too
much in. One was the 100-meter dash, and I drew a blank
there, although I just missed qualifying for the finals. I was
edged out for third place in my semifinal heat.
But that was the only thing I got shut out in. Even in
the discus, which wasn't a specialty of mine at all, I placed
fourth to pick up an extra point. And I actually won the shot
put, which was a big surprise. A girl named Rena Mac-
Donald was supposed to be the best woman shot putter, but
I beat her out with a throw of thirty-nine feet, six-and-a-
I won the championship in the baseball throw for the
third straight year. My distance was 272 feet, two inches.
Then in three Olympic trial events I broke the world's record.
In two of them it was a case of beating a record that I already
held myself. I threw the javelin 139 feet, three inches., which
was nearly six feet better than my old mark of 133 feet, five
and-a-half inches. I won an eighty-meter hurdle heat in 11.9
seconds, a tenth of a second faster than my previous mark.
In the finals of the eighty-meter hurdles I didn't do quite
that well, but my time of 12.1 seconds was good enough to
In the high jump I was competing against a very fine
specialist, Jean Shiley. When everybody had been eliminated
except us two, they moved the bar up just a fraction above
the world's record, held by a Dutch girl, Fraulein M. Gisolf.
She'd cleared five feet, three-and-one-eighth inches. Now
they had Jean Shiley and me try it at five feet, three-and-
three-sixteenths inches. Jean and I both got over. Neither of
us could make it any higher that day, so we wound up in a
When I came off the field at the end of the afternoon, all
puffing and sweating, Mrs. Wood was so happy and excited
she was crying. She said, "You did it! You did it! You won the
meet all by yourself!"
Colonel McCombs had that track meet doped out just
about right. Of the eight events I entered, I placed in seven.
I won five of them outright, and tied for first in a sixth. I
scored a total of thirty points, which was plenty to win the
national championship for Employers Casualty. The Illi-
nois Women's Athletic Club was second with twenty-two
George Kirksey, who covered the meet for the United
Press, said it was "the most amazing series of performances
ever accomplished by any individual, male or female, in track
and field history." Other sportswriters were saying the same
sort of thing. This was when that stuff about me being a
"super athlete" and a "wonder girl" started up.
Some friends took Mrs. Wood and me out that night,
and we danced until three o'clock in the morning. If I'm
not mistaken, I had myself a workout the next day, to make
sure that my muscles didn't tighten up or anything. I didn't
need any rest in those days. I was just an eighteen-year-old
kid. It got different later on, what with my cancer operation
in 1953 and the back trouble I developed in the spring of
1955 and everything.
IVe come back and won my share of golf tournaments,
but a lot of the time recently IVe felt I'd rather be at home
with my husband, George Zaharias, working around the new
house we built in Tampa, Florida.
George is the business head of the family, and for a while
there he wasn't sure whether we should build. Then one
morning at five o'clock, here's my big bear of a husband
shaking me awake. "Honey/* he says, "IVe been thinking it
over. You can have your house. "
Anyway, winning that 1932 national-championship track
meet singlehanded was the thing that first made my name
big that and the Olympic Games that followed. There were
only five individual track and field events for women on the
Olympic program that year. I was in three of them, which
was the most they would allow one person to enter. I was in
the javelin, the hurdles and the high jump.
The Olympics were held in Los Angeles a couple of
weeks after the tryouts. We went out there in advance to start
training. Mrs. Wood came back to Dallas with the trophies I'd
won in Chicago, while I got on a train for Los Angeles with
the other girls who had made the Olympic team.
I wasn't getting to sail across the ocean, the way I'd
dreamed of doing when I first heard about the Olympic
Games back in 1928. But a trip to Chicago, and then to Los
Angeles, was almost the same as going overseas to me. I was as
thrilled as any kid could be.
On the train going out, most of the girls sat around
watching the scenery and playing cards and gabbing. I was
busy taking exercises and doing my hurdle bends and stuff.
I'd practice in the aisle. Several times a day I'd jog the whole
length of the train and back. People in the other cars took to
calling out, "Here she comes again!"
Other girls would say to me, "Why don't you take it easy
for a while?" But I'd had my heart set on being in these
Olympics for a long time. I wanted to be sure I was in shape
now that I was finally getting there.
We had a stopoff in Denver so everybody could get off
the train and work out. I was looking forward to seeing "The
Mile High City." I was very young then, and hadn't been
around much. I didn't realize the slogan came from the fact
that Denver is a mile above sea level. It sounds silly now, but
I expected to see a city that was built a mile up in the air.
They took us to a stadium there in Denver, and every-
body went through their paces. I couldn't understand why I
kept getting winded much quicker than I usually did. They
explained to me that it was the effect of the high altitude.
Years later Denver became my home for several years, and
I found out that the altitude made a difference in the kitchen
too. On a lot of dishes you couldn't go by the cooking times
the ordinary recipe book called for. You had to make adjust-
ments for that thinner air.
From Denver we went straight on to Los Angeles, and
settled down there for regular workouts. The coach of the
Olympic women's track and field squad was a man named
George Vreeland. He wanted to improve my form in some
of the events. I've told you how going over the hurdles, I
bent my front leg more than you were supposed to, on account
of having practiced over those hedges back home. And I
didn't throw the javelin quite the way they said you should.
But I told the coach I was sorry, I wasn't going to change.
My own coach, Colonel McCombs, had told me I should
stick to my natural style. And I know today that he was
right. There's no one way to do anything in athletics. You
have to find the way that works best for you.
I don't believe Mr. Vreeland was too happy about my
refusing to take any new instruction from him. But he ac-
cepted the situation. And he did say he admired my loyalty to
the teachings of my coach.
While I was out there I got to meet a number of the
Hollywood stars I'd seen on the screen. There was Clark
Gable he could really keep you laughing. And I spent
some time with Will Rogers too. He was another wonderful
fellow. Then there was Janet Gaynor and Noraia Shearer and
Norma Talinadge and Joe E. Brown.
It was a wonderful thrill to march into the Olympic
Stadium in the parade on opening day, Monday, August first.
To tell you the truth, though, I couldn't enjoy the ceremonies
much after we got out there. We all had to wear special
dresses and stockings and white shoes that the Olympic Com-
mittee had issued to us. I believe that was about the first
time I'd ever worn a pair of stockings in my life; I was used
to anklets and socks. And as for those shoes, they were really
hurting my feet.
We had to stand there in a hot sun for about an hour and
a quarter while a lot of speeches and things went on. My feet
were hurting more and more. Pretty soon I slipped my feet
out of my shoes. Then another girl did. By the end I think
everybody had their shoes off.
They also issued us track shoes, but there I got permis-
sion to wear my own, which were all broken in and fitted me
I was in the javelin throw that first day, and it didn't
get started until late afternoon. Shadows were coming up
over the stadium, and it was turning pretty cool. We all got
out there to warm up. I was watching the German girls, be-
cause they were supposed to be the best javelin throwers. I
could see that they'd been taught to loosen up by throwing
the spear into the ground. I'd been told myself that this was
the way to practice, but I never could agree. It seemed to me
that this gave you the wrong motion. You'd feel a tug that
wasn't right. I always thought you should warm up with the
same swing you used in competition.
There were too many of us around for me to risk throw-
ing any spears up into the air the way I wanted to. Rather
than have no warm-up at all, I thought I'd practice that
other way, throwing the javelin into the ground. I tried it,
and I almost put it in a German girl's leg. I decided I'd better
The event started. They had a little flag stuck in the
ground out there to show how far the Olympic record was. It
was a German flag, because a German girl had set the record.
It was some distance short of my own world's record.
When my first turn came, I was aiming to throw the
javelin right over that flag. I drew back, then came forward
and let fly. What with the coolness and my lack of any real
warm-up, I wasn't loosened up properly. As I let the spear go,
my hand slipped off the cord on the handle.
Instead of arching die way it usually did, that javelin
went out there like a catcher's peg from home plate to second
base. It looked like it was going to go right through the
flag. But it kept on about fourteen feet past it for a new
Olympic and world's record of 143 feet, four inches.
In practice I'd made throws of close to 150 feet. Nobody
knew it ? but I tore a cartilage in my right shoulder when my
hand slipped making that throw. On my last two turns, people
thought I wasn't trying, because the throws weren't much
good. But they didn't have to be. My first throw stood up to
give me the gold medal for first place. A German girl, E.
Braumiller, who was the defending Olympic champion in
the event, came within nine inches of equalling me to place
second. Another German girl, T. Fleischer, was third.
Two days later we had the qualifying heats for the
eighty-meter hurdles. The Olympic record here was 12.2
seconds. The world's record, which I had set only a couple of
weeks before in Evanston, was 11.9 seconds. I beat both
those marks in winning my heat in 11.8 seconds.
The finals of the eighty-meter hurdles followed the next
day, a Thursday. I was so anxious to set another new record
that I jumped the gun, and they called us all baclc Now in
Olympic competition, if you jump the gun a second time they
disqualify you. I didn't want that to happen, so I held back on
the next start until I saw everybody taking off. It wasn't until
the fifth hurdle that I caught up, and I just did beat out
Evelyne Hall of Chicago. If it was horse racing, you'd say I
won by a nose. Even with the late start, I set another new
record with a time of 11.7 seconds.
Now all I needed was to win the high jump the next day
to make a clean sweep of my three events. The high jump
turned Into another contest between Jean Shiley and myself,
like the one we'd had in the Olympic tryouts. Both of us
were better this day than we'd ever been. The cross bar moved
up to five feet, five inches, which was nearly two inches
higher than the record Jean and I had set in Evanston. We
both cleared it. Now I'd beaten the world's record in all three
of my Olympic events.
But there was still first place to be settled between Jean
and myself. Since we were jumping off a tie, it was on a basis
of one try only. They raised the bar another three-quarters of
an inch. Jean Shiley gave it a real effort, but just missed
I took my turn. I went into my Western roll, kicking up
and rolling over. I just soared up there. I felt like a bird. I
could see that bar several inches beneath me as I went across.
I was up around five-ten, higher than I had ever been, and it
was a sensation like looking down from the top of the Empire
State building. And then as I hit the ground, the bar came
down after me.
Grantland Rice, who kept featuring me in his stories be-
fore and during the Olympics, described what happened this
way. "There was a wild shout as Miss Didrikson cleared the
cross bar by at least four inches. It was the most astonishing
jump any woman ever dreamed about. But luck was against
her. As the Babe fluttered to earth her left foot struck the
standard a glancing blow, just six inches from the ground
and the cross bar toppled into the dust with her."
So they dropped the bar down to five feet, five-and-a-
quarter inches to give us one last chance to break our first-
place tie. Well, my Western roll was a little confusing to the
judges. They weren't used to seeing it, especially with women
jumpers. And the Western roll had to be performed fust right
to conform with the high-jump rules of the day. Your feet had
to cross the bar first. If your head went over first, then it was
a "dive" and didn't count.
We took our last jumps. Jean Shiley made hers this time.
I made mine too. Then aU of a sudden the judges disallowed
my jump. They ruled that I Bad dived. Today it wouldn't
matter which part of me went over first. You're allowed to
get over the bar any way you possibly can, as long as you
take off from the ground on one foot. But back there in 1932,
tlie rule cost me my first-place tie.
There was a picture taken of that jump, and I think it
proves my feet actually went over just ahead of the rest of
me. I'd been jumping exactly the same way all afternoon
and all year, for that matter. I told the judges so, but they
said, "If you were diving before, we didn y t see it. We just
saw it this time."
Up in the press box Grantland Rice could tell what was
happening. He talked to me right afterwards, and said he
thought Fd been given a bad deal. So did some of the other
writers. That made me feel a little better about winding up
in second place.
Then Grantland Rice gave me something new to think
about. He invited me to play golf with him and some sports-
writer friends out at the Brentwood Country Club. I was
almost more excited about that than I had been about the
It's sometimes hard for me to pin down the
exact date when I first took up a sport. Golf is an example. I
was having lunch a while back with Lloyd Mangrum and a
couple of other golfers, and Lloyd said, "Babe, do you remem-
ber when you were living in Dallas, and you came out to the
El Tivoli Golf Club with some friends? You were just going to
walk around the course with them, but they said, "Why don't
you try a few holes?' So you borrowed their clubs and played
about five holes. Then you quit and said it was a silly game/'
I told Lloyd I did remember that.
"Well," he said, "do you remember who your caddy was
I stopped a moment. "Lloyd!" I said. "It was you!" And
Then another time after I first came to Dallas, Colonel
McCombs drove me home one Saturday afternoon, the way
he so often did. I'd been practicing basketball or track I
forget which. I remember I was still in my sweat suit and
tennis shoes. Anyway, Colonel McCombs said, "Babe, do you
mind if I stop at a driving range on the way home and hit a
few golf balls?"
I told him to go right ahead. I believe I added something
about how silly I thought it was for people to hit a little white
ball and then chase it. I was talking the way lads will talk
when they don't know how to do something, and so they
pretend they Ye not interested in it.
I don't suppose for a minute that I fooled Colonel Mc-
Combs. I imagine his whole idea was to get me thinking about
golf, just as he'd taken me out to that track meet when I first
moved to Dallas.
We stopped at the driving range, and Colonel McCombs
hit a few drives. Finally he invited me to try one. Or maybe
I asked him to let me do it. I took my stance in front of a light
post. I reared back and swung with all my might. I caught
that ball square, but I came around so hard that the club hit
the light post on the follow through and broke in two.
The little Scotsman who ran the driving range came
running up to us. He was shouting. I thought he was mad
because I'd broken the club. But instead of that he was yell-
ing, "Wow! Look at that! See where she hit the ball!" They
measured it, and it was about 250 yards.
But I don't think you could count either of those times
I've mentioned as actually playing golf. So when Grantland
Rice invited me out to the Brentwood course during the
Olympics, I'd never played a round of golf in my life.
Granny came around in a car early in the morning and
picked me up at the hotel where I was staying, the Chapman
Park. He had three other sportswriters with him Paul Gal-
lico and Westbrook Pegler and Braven Dyer. Did it make me
self-conscious to be with well-known people like that? No, it's
never seemed to bother me whether the people I meet are
famous or not. Of course, I was glad of the chance to get to
know these men. But I wasn't worried about them being big-
name writers. All I was worried about was how good they
were as golfers. I didn't want to look like a fool on that golf
While they were having some coffee before we teed off, I
excused myself. I said I wanted to change my shoes and bor-
row some clubs. That wasn't all I wanted. I ducked out to the
pro shop and hunted up Olin Dutra, the Brentwood pro, who
won the PGA championship that year.
I said, "Mr. Dutra, I'm going to play golf with Granny
Rice and Pegler and the boys. I want you to show me how it's
supposed to be done so I won't look too bad out there."
He lent me some clubs, and he showed me as much as he
could in a few minutes about the grip and the stance and the
swing. He demonstrated how you should pivot when you
swing. And he kept telling me, "Look at the ball real hard.
That's the most important thing."
Finally we went out to play our round. Granny Rice was
taking me as his partner because I was the beginner, while he
was considered the best player of the group. We stood the
other three. It was a best-ball match, so he'd have a chance
to win for our side even if I didn't do any good.
I said to him, "I don't know how to play this game. So
don't bet too much money!" He told me they were just going
to play a dollar nassau.
We flipped a coin, and Granny and I won the toss, so I
was the first to drive off. I just put my ball down and was
going to hit it right off the ground, but Granny said, "Hey!
You have to tee up the ball before you drive," And he teed up
my first ball for me, which Tve always felt was quite an honor.
I drove, and the ball sailed straight out there about 240
yards. I outdrove all the men on that first hole. They'd thought
I was a great natural athlete, and wanted to see how I'd do at a
new sport. But after that first drive, they couldn't believe I'd
hardly ever swung a club before. They said, "You must have
played a lot of golf/*
A majority of my drives that day were between 240 and
260 yards. Of course, I had some bad shots in between. IVe
read since that my score for the round was eighty-six. Actually
I think it was around 100.
Grantland Rice was playing good golf, so he and I were
ahead. As I remember, we were two up coming into the six-
teenth hole. That was a short hole. There was a big dip down
from the tee, and then the green was way up on top of a hill
Paul Gallico hit the best tee shot. It looked like he was a
cinch to win the hole. So Granny whispered to me, "Babe,
why don't you challenge Paul to race you down and up that
bill?" Paul's a real good sport, and he took the dare. Of course
I beat him, because I was in the peak of condition, but he
raced me all the way. He was so winded he had to lie down
on the grass and catch his breath. When he finally got up, he
four-putted the green. Granny and I won the hole and the
I'd thought about being a golfer before, but I think that
was the day that really determined me on it. Grantland Rice
told me, and wrote in his column, that he'd never seen a
woman who could hit a golf ball the way I did, and that I had
the ability to be a great player.
I got in a few more licks with a golf club at the Wilshire
driving range before I left Los Angeles. And I collected a few
Olympic souvenirs banners that were hanging outside
buildings, and stuff like that. A story got in the paper that the
"wonder girl" had been climbing up eight-story buildings to
get herself some Olympic flags. Well, it wasn't quite like that.
It wasn't just me doing it. It was a bunch of us girls. And we
didn't scale any outside walls. We went up inside the build-
ings to where we could reach out and grab what we wanted.
Finally it was time to come home. I flew back from Los
Angeles to Dallas. IVe always remembered that plane as a
big airliner. Not long ago I saw a picture of it, and it was just
a little old one-engine plane that couldn't have carried more
than seven passengers.
When we landed at the airport in Dallas, the mayor and
everybody was there to greet me. There were a lot of civic
officials, and the Employers Casualty people Homer R.
Mitchell, Colonel McCombs, Mrs. Henry Wood. They'd
brought Momma and Poppa in for the welcome-home cele-
They paraded me through the city. One of the Dallas
newspapers said the next day, "It was not unlike the reception
Col. Lindbergh received when he came here after his epochal
flight across the Atlantic. Paper bits and confetti, tearings
from telephone books, city directories and newspapers flew
from office windows."
I was riding in an open car, waving to everybody and
having a whale of a time. I had chill bumps all over that whole
day. They took me to the Adolphus Hotel. They had a suite
of rooms for me, with flowers all over the place. But what
really caught my eye was a great big watermelon that some
Texan had sent. I believe it weighed 125 pounds. I stepped
into the suite, where a committee was waiting, and my first
words were, "Man, that's the biggest watermelon I ever saw!"
Everybody howled. We had a party later on, and more
than 100 of us ate off that watermelon.
A few days after I got home, I had to go up to Chicago for
a post-Olympic track meet they were having at Soldier's Field.
They had rounded up as many as possible of the star athletes
of all nations who had competed at Los Angeles. I didn't es-
pecially want to go. The celebrating after the Olympics, and
all the appearances I had to make and interviews I had to
give, had tired me out more than the Olympic Games them-
selves. But they sort of insisted that I go to this post-Olympic
You remember the trouble I had getting out to the sta-
dium in my trip to Chicago for the Olympic tryouts earlier in
the summer. Well, this time it was worse. I set out by plane,
but the weather got bad, and we had to land at Parsons, Kan-
sas. I switched to a train, after wiring them in Chicago about
my change in plans.
By the time the train got in, I guess the meet had already
started. They were waiting for me at the railroad station with
a car with a siren. We roared through Chicago and down
Michigan Avenue and over to Soldier's Field. They opened
up the gates at one end of the stadium, and we drove right in.
They'd held up a couple of the women's events I was
entered in. When that car drove in, the announcer called out,
"Here comes the Babe!" There was a terrific roar from the
I didn't do too many things that afternoon. I won the
high jump and I was second in the discus. That was one event
I hadn't even qualified for in the Olympics, but my best throw
there in Chicago was good enough to have taken the Olym-
pic gold medal out at Los Angeles. There was this Polish
girl, though Jadwiga Wajsowna who beat me out for first
Then it was back to Dallas again. The show was over, or
at least I thought it was. I had a letter from the Illinois Wom-
en's Athletic Club saying that if I went up there they'd get me
a job paying $300 a month. I went in and showed the letter to
Homer R. Mitchell, president of Employers Casualty.
He said, "Why, Babe, I think we can give you $300 a
month to stay here."
I said, "Well, that's fine. Because I'd rather stay here
where my friends are."
Whenever I got extra money, one of the things it always
meant to me was that now I'd be able to do more for my
mother and dad. I'm not trying to brag on myself. My broth-
ers and sisters were the same way. They always did every-
thing they possibly could. Even when they all were married
and had children of their own, they never forgot what hard
times Momma and Poppa had gone through to raise us seven
Didrikson kids there on Doucette Street in Beaumont.
My first year in Dallas, when I was just making the $75
a month, I remember how happy I was coming home with a
new radio for Christmas. I had it wrapped in a blanket. I sat
up all night on the day coach from Dallas to Beaumont, hold-
ing that radio on my lap. I was wishing I could plug it in on
the train somewhere to see if it would play.
The train got into Beaumont about six o'clock in the
morning. I got out to the house and slipped in through the
back door, which they always left open for the kids to use. I
went upstairs to Momma and Poppa's bedroom. They were
sleeping Poppa was snoring away. I plugged the radio in
right by Momma's bed and tuned in Station KFDM, where I
used to hear Castor Oil Clarence when I was little. They woke
up to the music on the radio, and they were so excited
That radio cost me almost a month's salary, but I was able
to get it on credit. For a while there, if I bought anything at all
expensive, it generally had to be on credit. The people at the
stores knew who I was, and they always seemed to give me a
break. I might have to tell them, "I don't know just how I'm
going to pay for this, but I'll do it somehow." And they'd let
me take it, and I always did get it paid off.
One time in those early days I did have eighty dollars in
cash saved up. Now something Momma had wanted all her
life was an ivory bedroom set. I was walking past a store in
Beaumont, and I saw this secondhand bedroom set a big
bed with wicker stuff in the back, and a big dresser, and two
little tables. I knew Poppa could fix it all up like new.
I went in the store and asked them how much they
wanted for it. They said, "A hundred dollars/' I said, "Til give
you eighty dollars for it.'* They said all right, and I had them
send it to the Ryder Furniture Company, where Poppa
worked. They probably thought that was fust terrible, me
buying something from one furniture store and then sending
it to another to be refinished.
Poppa was the boss of the refinishers at his store, and
they did a beautiful job on that bedroom set. They painted it
ivory just as Momma had always wanted. She loved it. It's
still in the house on Doucette Street. It was sold with the
house. When I went through there a while back I saw it. It's
painted green now.
After I began making more money, I could do things like
taking Poppa downtown to the store and buying him a new
suit and a supply of the khaki pants and shirts he wore all the
And I loved to buy clothes for Momma. Once I took her
to a store called the White House in Beaumont. I said,
"Momma, pick you out a dress." She did, and I said, "Pick you
out another one."
I kept on going until she had eight dresses. I said,
"Momma, now you've got a dress for every day in the week
and two for Sundays." She was the most tickled person you
ever saw. She practically wore out those dresses showing them
to everybody that came to the house.
Then there was one spring when Momma had a bad acci-
dent. She was going to a church service at night, and decided
to run across a street. That was just like Momma. Well, she
didn't see this car coming, and it hit her. It broke her pelvis
and crushed her ankle and banged up her arm.
Naturally she was in bed a long time, but she didn't stay
there as long as was expected. This was in the days before
they began having patients get out of bed and exercise as soon
as possible. Momma was about two weeks away from being
able to get out of bed according to the doctors when she
said, "I've got to get up. I've got to see if I can walk again."
And she struggled to her feet, with her arm and her ankle in
casts, and her pelvis aU strapped up. She started hobbling
around, and she never did go back to bed again, except to
Mother's Day was coming, and I wanted to do something
extra nice for her. I took her down to an appliance store the
Saturday before to look at mechanical ice boxes and stoves.
I didn't tell her I was planning to buy them or anything. Of
course the ones she liked best had to be the biggest and most
expensive in the place.
I think this was the spring after the Olympic Games. I
had some money at the time, but not enough to make more
than a down payment on the ice box and stove I wanted. I
took Momma home, then went back and explained my finan-
cial problem to the man at the store. He said, "Why don't you
just wait a while until you can arrange to pay for this?"
I said, "But I can't wait! I want to get the ice box and
stove out tomorrow. I want them for Mother's Day."
He said, "Well, 111 be at the store tomorrow morning.
You come down and we'll see what we can do."
I was there in the morning, and he agreed to make de-
livery and let me pay off the balance on credit. Since it was
Sunday, only a couple of the men were there. I rode out on
the delivery truck to give them a hand. First I called my sister
Lillie at home. I asked her to keep Momma out of the way
while the delivery was being made.
Momma already had dinner cooking on the stove. We
brought in the new one and they connected it up, and put
the stuff that was cooking right onto it Then they hooked up
the new ice box, and loaded everything into it from the old
When they were all finished I gave Lillie the high sign.
Pretty soon Momma came limping into the kitchen to check
on her cooking. She saw the new stove, and she couldn't be-
lieve it. Then she started over to the ice box, and saw that was
She was so overwhelmed she started to cry. She came
over and began hugging me, "Min Babe!" she kept saying.
"You did it! My best girl!"
I'm telling you, IVe won a lot of big prizes, but none of
them ever gave me quite the same thrill I had that day.
Well, after the Olympics and the post-Olympics and all
that were over, I got back into the old office and basketball
routine at Employers Casualty. I was still liking it. But the
pressure got pretty heavy on me during the fall of 1932,
People kept telling me how I could get rich if I turned pro-
fessional That big-money talk sounds nice when you're just
a kid whose family has never had very much.
What I really wanted to do at this point was to become a
golfer. I was going to make an appearance at the Dallas ball
park, and they were going to present me an expensive watch.
I went by the Cullum and Boren sporting-goods store there in
Dallas one day, and saw this beautiful set of golf clubs in the
window. It was like a girl seeing a mink coat. I was just dying
to have those golf clubs, but I couldn't possibly afford to buy
I went in and handled the clubs and everything. I know
they'd have been glad to present me the golf clubs at the
ball-park ceremony instead of the watch, which cost just
about as much. But it might impair my amateur standing in
golf if I accepted those clubs. So I took the watch instead.
Early in December of 1932 my name and picture turned
up in a newspaper ad, with the statement that I liked the new
1933 Dodge automobile. The Southern branch of the Ama-
teur Athletic Union declared me a professional. That would
have been fair enough if I'd given permission for my name
to be used in that ad, or taken pay for it. But I hadn't. A
Dodge man in Dallas had set it up on his own. He didn't real-
ize that it would cause any trouble.
I'd already started another basketball season with the
Employers Casualty Golden Cyclones. This made me in-
eligible for that. And it meant I couldn't compete in the
A.A.U. track meets any more, either. The Dodge man in
Dallas wrote the A.A.U., explaining that I wasn't to blame,
and so did the advertising agency that handled the ad. And
later on that month the A.A.U. announced that it was reinstat-
ing me as an amateur.
But by then I'd decided to turn pro anyway. I started out
by doing some work for the Chrysler Motor Company, which
makes the Dodge car. They were sorry about what had hap-
pened, and they wanted to make it up to me. They brought
me up to Detroit, with my sister Esther Nancy as chaperone,
and got us a suite of rooms in the Book Cadillac Hotel. We
met all the Chrysler people the president, K, T. Keller, and
everybody. And they were real nice.
They hired me to appear at the Dodge booth at the Auto
Show in Detroit. I signed autographs and talked to people. I
even played the harmonica to attract the attention of the
crowd and draw people over to the booth,
Chrysler also got a fellow named George P. Emerson at
the Ruthrauff & Ryan advertising agency to act as my agent
and arrange some bookings for me. It didn't cost me any-
thing. He got me a contract to start out making stage appear-
ances on tie RKO circuit after the Auto Show was over.
I opened with a week at the Palace Theater in Chicago,
I had top billing in a stage show with Fifi D'Orsay and Bob
Murphy and his Collegians. I was given the star dressing
room. Somebody told me that Fifi D'Orsay didn't like that. I
went to her and said, "Miss D'Orsay, I'd like for you to have
my dressing room/'
She said, "How sweet of you! But I wouldn't dream of it."
And she didn't change dressing rooms with me, but we be-
came good friends after that.
Td never done any kind of theatrical performing in my
life. I thought I wasn't scared until we drove up to the theater
the first morning, and I saw a crowd of people lined up down
the block. I said, "My Lord, I can't go through with this!"
I had an eighteen-minute act. A performer named
George Libbey was working with me. He'd be up there on
the stage to get things started. He'd play the piano and do an
Eddie Cantor imitation. Then I'd come down the aisle wear-
ing a real cute panama hat and a green swagger coat and high-
heeled spectators. The idea was that I was just back from
We'd swap a few lines, and then I'd sing a song. It was a
take-off on "I'm Fit As A Fiddle And Ready For Love." It
I'm fit as a fiddle and ready to go.
I could jump over the moon up above,
I'm fit as a fiddle and ready to go.
I haven't a worry and haven't a care.
I feel like a feather just floating on air.
I'm fit as a fiddle and ready to go.
Then when I came to the middle part I'd go "boop-boop-
a-dee-dee/' like Bing Crosby was doing at that time.
After I got through singing I'd sit down and take my
high heels off, and put on rubber-soled track shoes. Then I'd
remove my coat. I was wearing a red-white-and-blue jacket
and shorts of silk satin. Yd demonstrate different kinds of
One of the things I did was run on a treadmill. They
staged it real nice, with a black velvet backdrop and a great
big clock to show how fast I was going. They had someone
running beside me on another treadmill. At the end they
would forge my treadmill ahead a little bit. I'd break the tape
and go on to win.
I was surprised at how good a notice that show got the
next day from Clark Rodenbach in the Chicago Tribune. This
is what he said about my act:
"Friday afternoon was the TBabeY first time behind foot-
lights, and the girl from the Lone Star state took the hurdle as
gallantly as she ever did on the track. If her heart was thump-
ing from the dread disease of stagefright, it wasn't apparent
from the audience. After a bit of preliminary clowning by her
partner, George Libbey, who was rushed here from New
York for the occasion, 'Babe' sings a song over the e mike/ and
then goes into her equivalent of a dance.
"The 'Babe' skims a hurdle, jumps a couple of times,
drives imitation golf balls, and runs on a treadmill. Mr. Lib-
bey bemoans the fact that the limited scope of the stage
forbids her showing more of her extraordinary prowess, such
as heaving the discus, flinging the javelin or tossing a basket-
ball. And Mildred ends her turn by playing a harmonica with
no mean skill."
On the harmonica-playing, there were just three num-
bers that Td practiced to play with the orchestra. I believe
that "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling" was one of them, and
"Begin the Beguine" was another. I forgot what the third one
One night the audience wouldn't let me off until I'd given
some encores. I didn't know how I could do it, until they
whispered to me from the orchestra pit, "Babe, you just go
ahead with any numbers you want, and well fill in and make
you sound good."
On my song, I could carry a tune pretty good. In fact, one
of the Chicago newspaper critics didn't believe it was really
me singing. He wrote that maybe they were piping in some-
body else's voice while I stood in front of the microphone
and went through the motions.
I got out there at one of my evening shows and said, "I
see where some of these critics don't believe I'm doing my
own singing. I'm going to sing tonight without a mike." So I
did, and the audience gave me a real ovation.
During one show George Libbey and I were out there,
and I happened to glance at the little sign at the side of the
stage that showed the name of the act. He said, "What are
you looking at, Babe?" and I said, "Oh, I'm just looking to
see who the hell's on." That drew such a laugh that they made
it part of the act from then on.
Before the week was out I was beginning to enjoy my-
self. I liked the feeling of that crowd out there. I had bookings
after Chicago in Brooklyn and New York at something like
$2500 a week.
And yet it was still in iny craw that I wanted to be a
champion golfer. I could see Td never get to do that with
these four and five stage shows a day. I was spending all my
time either in the theater or in my hotel. And I didn't like
having to put that grease paint on for every show.
I talked it over with my sister Esther Nancy we called
her Nancy. She said, "Babe, honey, you can make a lot of
money on this circuit. It's just a question of whether you
want to do it."
I said, "Nancy, I don't want the money if I have to make
it this way. I want to live my life outdoors. I want to play
Nancy agreed that it was best for me to pull out if I felt
that way. She told George Emerson about it ? and he under-
stood. So we canceled the New York and Brooklyn dates. I
quit after the one week in Chicago.
I've often thought since that if I hadn't pulled out then
Td still be in show business today. Because it was beginning
to get in my blood. And if Td known what tough financial
times I was going to face, Td probably have thought twice
about passing up the money for those other stage bookings.
One of the nice things about making a name
for yourself in sports is that you get to meet and know the
famous athletes who have been your heroes. That sort of
thing started for me in the months after the Olympics.
It was during my week at the Palace Theater in Chicago
that I first met Jack Dempsey. Back home in Beaumont when
I was little, I can remember lying in bed one night listening
to a broadcast of a Dempsey fight on the crystal set. Well, Bob
Murphy, of our stage show, knew Dempsey, and brought him
around to the theater to meet some of the performers.
Arch Ward of the Chicago Tribune was with them. He
invited us to run up to the newspaper office with him and see
what a big sports department looked like. He took us into the
clipping morgue. Of course, there were several drawers full
of clippings about Jack Dempsey > while my file only took up
part of a drawer at that time.
Jack Dempsey walked me back to the theater. It was icy.
The wind was blowing like mad. We were crossing the bridge
by the Wrigley Building, and Jack said, "It's too cold just to
walk. Come on, let's ran/* We ran, and it's a good thing we
were arm in arm, because I hit an icy patch and slid. I might
have slid right into the river if he hadn't held my arm. I al-
most went off the bridge, and he almost went with me.
Another fellow I met very early in my career was Babe
Ruth. I made a point of being introduced to him, because he
was the original Babe. He seemed to take an interest in me
too. He said, "Babe, let me give you some advice. I wish
someone had told me this when I was your age. I know you're
making money. Put some of it away. Get yourself an annuity."
Babe Ruth and I were buddies for years. We'd be teamed
in golf exhibitions and things like that. The last time I saw him
was in Coral Gables, Florida, in 1948, a few months before
his death. He didn't look well. We were playing golf for the
benefit of a cancer fund drive. Here he was going to die of
cancer, and I was due to come down with it, although of
course neither of us knew it at the time.
I came out to the first tee with my husband George, who
is even bigger and huskier than Babe Ruth ever was. Well, the
Babe grabbed me and gave me a big hug and kiss. He turned
to George and grinned, and said in that husky whisper he
spoke in then, "What are you gonna do about it?"
After I pulled out of those stage bookings early in 1933, 1
went on to New York and made a few miscellaneous sports
appearances. I played a billiard exhibition with. Ruth Mc-
Ginnis, a woman professional. Then I played basketball one
night in a game between two girls* teams, the Brooklyn Yan-
kees and the Long Island Ducklings.
I played for the Brooklyn Yankees. Was that other team
ever rough! Those Long Island Duckling girls were out to
show me up. I never got pushed around and fouled so much
in any basketball game. They were determined I wasn't going
to make a single basket. They beat me all over the place.
Now there's nobody who wants to win more than I do. I'll
knock myself out to do it. But iVe never played rough or
dirty. To me good sportsmanship is just as important as win-
ning. That's one of the things my dad drummed into me. You
have to play the game the right way. If you win through bad
sportsmanship, that's no real victory in my book.
Those Long Island Ducklings sure made it tough for me.
Near the end of the first half my pants got split part way up
the side, and some of my bare skin was showing. Everybody
thought that I'd change my pants at half time. But I wasn't
going to change. I was all fired up to get back there and show
these girls they couldn't stop me with their rough stuff.
When we came out for the second half, and the people
saw me still wearing those torn pants, they cheered and
yelled, *Come on, Babel" And I began breaking loose. On one
play I took the ball at center court and dribbled all the way
through them to score. I jumped so high and hard going in
for the basket that my arm hit the backboard, and I wound up
in somebody's lap about six rows back.
Basketball scores often ran low in that era. This was a real
low-scoring game, what with that roughhouse guarding. But
of the nineteen points our team scored, I made nine. And we
held the Long Island Ducklings to sixteen points to win.
After the game they made me a presentation of a duck.
It was the most beautiful thing you ever saw, with a big green
ribbon on it and a big yellow bill. I didn't know what to do
with it, but I wanted to keep it. I don't get rid of anything
that is a gift I value and appreciate gifts more than things I
buy for myself.
I took that poor duck back with me to my room in the
Congress Hotel. You can imagine what it was like. I tried to
keep the duck in the bath tub, but it would get out and walk
around the room.
I took it down to the desk the next morning and asked
them, "Will you ship this duck home for me air express?"
They said they would. And then a couple of nights later they
had a country dance night at the hotel Vincent Lopez was
the orchestra leader and I won a little white pig. The hotel
shipped the pig home for me too.
Momma and Poppa were nearly going crazy back in
Beaumont ducks coming to the house, and pigs coming.
Then I went back home myself. I believe I worked for
Employers Casualty for a while, and then in the spring I went
out to California. This was still 1933. 1 was going to do noth-
ing but learn golf. I took Momma and Poppa with me. They
were both getting older, and I thought they should have a
rest and a change.
I told a reporter out in Los Angeles, "I have enough
money to last me three years and I intend to win the women's
amateur golf championship before those three years and my
bankroll are gone/'
This big bankroll I was talking about was actually some
such amount as $1800. 1 thought, "I can live forever on this.
This is more money than I ever saw.**
Well, I was right about it taking your full time to become
a top golfer, but I soon found out that I was wrong about how
long the $1800 would last. I was practicing my golf out at a
driving range, trying to hold down those expenses.
Lou Nash, a golfer friend out there, got interested in me,
because I was hitting such a long ball and everything. He
said, "Why don't you get some pro to help you?"
I said, "What do you mean, get a pro to help me?"
"I mean you should take golf lessons," he said.
"How much does it cost?" I asked.
"Oh, they charge about three dollars an hour," he said.
"Then I can't do it," I told him. "I just can't afford it."
He said, "Let me go here and talk to a fellow a minute/'
He went over and spoke to a young golf pro named Stan-
ley Kertes, then brought him back and introduced us. I liked
Stan Kertes right off the bat. He was about my age. He told
me I could really hit a golf ball, but that I should take some
instruction to learn basic foundation stuff.
I said, "Yeah, but it costs too much money /*
He said, "111 teach you free."
We worked there all day. Stan Kertes is a great teacher of
golf IVe been going back to him ever since when I have
the chance. He got me a set of clubs out of the driving-range
shop. Then we started in on the grip the correct right hand
grip. And he stressed to me the importance of the firm left
arm. He never drilled me to keep it dead straight. If the left
arm bends just a little, that's okay, and everything will be fine
with the right arm too.
When It got to be dinnertime, lie took me out to eat* I
felt kind of bad that he should give me free lessons and pay
for my dinner too. When we finished I thanked him very
much and said, "111 see you."
"Do you want to quit?" he said.
I said, "No, I'd like to hit some more. But balls cost fifty
cents a bucket"
"Come on/* he said. We went back, and he got three or
four buckets of balls. I stayed out there until twelve o'clock
when they turned the lights off.
Stan told me to come back again the next day, and when
I asked what time, he said, "As early as you want to." He was
going to stop all his paid lessons for a while and just work
with me, giving me a real fast, concentrated course.
The next morning I couldn't wait to get out there. I had
my shower and breakfast and was ready to leave for the driv-
ing range by five o'clock in the morning. It wasn't daylight
yet, but rather than just sit around, I went out there. I had a
golf club, and I practiced what he'd told me about the grip
and the stance. Finally they came and opened up the place,
and Stan and I hit balls all day long.
It went on like that day after day. But eventually my
money did run out. And I knew I couldn't keep on taking up
all Stan's time that way with free lessons.
So by the end of the summer the Didriksons had to go
back to Texas. Momma and Poppa went home to Beaumont. I
went to work for Employers Casualty again. Those people
were wonderful to me. There must have been four or five
times when I had to come back to them, and always there was
a job for me at $300 a month.
Another thing I won't forget is the automobile-accident
policy I had with them. In the periods when I wasn't working
there, I never thought to pay the premiums. It was during one
of those in-between times that I had an auto wreck. I re-
ported it to Employers Casualty and said, "I suppose my pol-
icy's no good any more." They told me, "No, you're still in-
sured. We've kept the policy up for you." And they paid the
I think it was the fall after we came back from California
this was still 1933 that Poppa took sick. He needed an
operation. We had no money for it. I inquired around and
found that at the John Sealy Hospital in Galveston we could
get it done free. Naturally it didn't occur to me that some day
I might have to go into the John Sealy Hospital myself.
I came home to Beaumont to get Poppa. He was lying
out on the porch where all us kids used to sleep. It shocked
me to see how bad he looked. He was so sick, and he must
have lost twenty-five or thirty pounds.
I said, *TPoppa, do you feel well enough to ride in the
"Babe, Til do anything/' he said.
So I said, "Come on, let's go to Galveston. I've got things
aQ set up/ 7 We drove to the hospital in Galveston, and a Doc-
tor Cohen did a fine job of operating on him.
Poppa had always been a great pipe smoker. He'd had to
give that up during his illness. I know how he must have
missed it, because that pipe used to be going all the time.
He'd fall asleep at night, and the pipe would drop out of his
mouth. He*d wake up early in the morning and light it up the
very first thing. Sometimes you could hardly breathe when
Poppa was in the room, the air would be so thick with smoke.
Three days after the operation Momma and I were visit-
ing Poppa in the hospital. Momma and I had a room nearby
for which we were paying fifty cents a day. We had to take
the cheapest room we could find.
Doctor Cohen walked in. "Mr. Didrikson," he said,
"where's your pipe?"
"I thought I wasn't supposed to smoke it,** Poppa said.
Doctor Cohen said, "Get up and go sit on the porch and
smoke your pipe."
"Get up?" said Poppa. "I was just operated on three days
"Yes, get up and go smoke your pipe/* Doctor Cohen told
him. "You're all right. You can go home in a couple of days. 9 '
Poppa did get out of the hospital in another couple of
days, and he began gaining back his weight and feeling good
again. But it would be a while before he'd be able to work. It
was up to me to earn some money. I wanted to make more
than the $300 a month at Employers Casualty if I could, so I
accepted an offer from a promoter named Ray Doan, of Mus-
catine, Iowa, to go on a basketball tour with a team he called
Babe Didrikson's Ail-Americans.
Another girl athlete, Jane Mitchell, was with me on that
team, and for a while we had a third girl on the squad. The
rest of the players were men. We appeared in different cities,
playing against local men's teams, and generally we made out
all right. We weren't worldbeaters, but we had a pretty fair
bunch of basketball players.
In the spring of 1934, after the basketball season had
ended, this same promoter, Ray Doan, got me to appear with
his House of David baseball team. Maybe you remember that
outfit. AH the players had beards. They booked games all over
the country and drew some good crowds.
I was an extra attraction to help them draw the crowds. I
was the only girl and I didn't wear a beard, I didn't travel
with the team or anything. I hardly even got to know the
players. I had my own car, and I had the schedule, and I'd
get to whatever ball park they were playing at in time for the
game. I'd pitch the first inning, and then I'd take off and not
see them again until the next town. As I remember, my earn-
ings from both the basketball and the baseball were about
$1000 a month.
In Florida before the baseball tour started, I did a little
exhibition pitching against some of the major-league and
minor-league teams. One day I was at Bradenton, Florida,
where the St. Louis Cardinals were training. They were going
to play an exhibition game with the Philadelphia Athletics. I
was sitting in the grandstand before the game with Dizzy and
Paul Dean of the Cardinals. Jimmy Foxx of the Athletics was
Dizzy Dean was always bragging, you know. That is,
people called it bragging. Actually, it was just his way. It was
Southern Texas talk. Dizzy was good and he knew it. He'd
say, "I'm gonna do something big" and then go ahead and
Well, we were talking there, and the fellows were kid-
ding each other back and forth. There was a little ribsteak
going on. And Dizzy says to Jimmy Foxx, **Well pitch Babe
against you, and I'll betcha that me and Paul and Babe can
beat you guys."
So it wound up with me pitching the first inning for the
Cardinals. Frankie Frisch was managing the team then, and
he was a fellow to enjoy a stunt like that. Dizzy Dean wasn't
in there at the start of the game, but they put Paul Dean out
in left field, because lie was going to come in anyway and
pitch after I finished.
Pretty soon the bases were loaded with none out. Those
bases got loaded on hits, not walks. I always had pretty good
control. I seldom walked anybody. But I couldn't seem to
throw the ball past these major-leaguers.
The next batter hit a line drive, but it turned into a
double play and nobody scored. That brought up Jimmy
There was a big grove of orange trees out back of left
field. I don't suppose many balls were hit that far, but with a
girl pitching and Jimmy Foxx batting, Paul Dean wasn't tak-
ing any chances. He was backed up almost to the edge of the
And Jimmy Foxx hit a ball deep into those trees. Paul
Dean turned and started running back. He disappeared right
into the orange grove. A couple of moments later he came
trotting out. He was holding up his glove for everyone to see.
There was a baseball and about five oranges in it. Thafs how
we made the third out. And that was enough pitching for me
I guess I've competed in more different sports than any
other girl, but I've always drawn the line at certain things. I
never played football, although it's been printed hundreds of
times that football was one of my sports, along with some
other things I never did, like wrestling and boxing.
Those neighborhood touch-tag games when I was a kid
were the closest I ever came to playing football. After I got
my reputation as an all-around athlete in the Olympic games,
Grantland Bice made a movie short of me demonstrating how
I handled myself in different sports. Football was one of them.
I punted and forward-passed. Then they had me running with
the ball against the SMU team. I'd zigzag down the field,
and they'd keep diving for me and just miss me. It looked
real good in the picture. And they had me tackle a fellow. We
did it nice and easy, but they speeded up the camera so that
it looked like the real thing.
As for those other rough sports, my husband George did
all the wrestling in the family he was one of the big-name
professionals for many years. And on the boxing, here's what
started so many people to thinking that I used to do that.
Back when I was playing basketball on the Employers
Casualty team, we were in Wichita, Kansas, for the national
tournament. Bill Stribling, the kid brother of Young Stribling,
the heavyweight contender, happened to be in town. They
called him Baby Stribling. He was a fighter too.
A photographer brought him out to the hall where our
team was practicing. The photographer asked me if I'd mind
putting on a pair of boxing gloves and posing with Stribling. I
said sure, I'd go along with the gag. I was already in my
basketball suit, so I didn't have to change clothes for the pic-
ture or anything. I've always been glad to co-operate with
photographers anyway. I know the picture can help me, and
help whoever else is in it, and help the photographer too.
So they tied the gloves on me, and I pretended to square
off with Stribling while the photographer shot some pictures.
That was all, but the story began to appear in print later on
that I'd once had an exhibition sparring match with Baby
Stribling. The more that story was told, the wilder it got.
Some versions had me doing everything but knock him out.
Actually, I've never had boxing gloves on in my life except
for publicity pictures.
Anyhow, getting back to my baseball pitching with, the
House of David team in 1934, by the end of that summer I
was about $3700 ahead. That bankroll didn't last long either.
One reason was that I'd overdone the advice Babe Ruth gave
me about taking out an annuity. When I was making $300 a
month, I started paying $150 a month into an annuity. With
the basketball and baseball tours, I increased the amount to
$600 a month. I couldn't keep up the payments. I wound up
losing my annuity altogether.
These years I'm talking about were a mixed-up time for
me. My name had meant a lot right after the Olympic Games,
but it had sort of been going down since then. I hadn't been
smart enough to get into anything that would really keep me
I had to find some way to build my name up again, so I
could make some money. There had to be money not just for
me but for the family. At one point I thought maybe tennis
would be the answer. I figured there could be money in that
it's a sport where you can sell tickets and people can sit
down and watch you play. If I got good enough at the game, I
thought perhaps a lot of people would pay to see me play
I don't know whether it would have worked out like that,
because I never got a chance to try it. I started practicing
tennis. I was learning the forehand stroke, and the backhand.
Then we began on the serve, and I found I couldn't do it right,
I couldn't raise my arm properly. That cartilage Yd torn in my
right shoulder, throwing the javelin at the Olympic Games,
still hadn't healed quite right.
Hie shoulder trouble didn't bother me on any of the
other tennis strokes. It was just the serve that it interfered
with. But that was enough to kill me for tennis, of course.
The shoulder didn't interfere with my golf swing, either.
And golf was still my real objective. All I wanted to accom-
plish with these other things was to get in a financial position
where I could concentrate on golf. That was my big sports
Bobby Jones came to Texas to play an exhibition at the
Houston Country Club, and I traveled all the way from Dallas
to see him. He'd turned professional since making his grand
slam of the British and American amateur and open tourna-
ments in 1930. He was a great idol of mine.
I sat with Bobby at a golf writers' dinner in New York not
too long ago, and I asked him if he remembered playing that
exhibition in Houston. He said, "Yes, I remember. We got
rained out there."
And that's what happened. He just got to play a couple
of holes, and then the rain ended the round. It was such a
disappointment to me. Even in the short time I got to watch
him, though, I was impressed by the way he stepped up there
on the tee and slugged the ball. He was out to hit the ball just
as hard as he could. And that's always been my kind of
I saw that Bobby Jones exhibition a short time after my
summer of baseball with the House of David. Seeing Jones
sort of fired up my own golf ambitions. And Employers Cas-
ualty helped to make it possible for me to get going on golf
again. They not only gave me my job back one more time,
they got me a membership at the Dallas Country Club and
paid for my lessons there with George Aulbach.
I spent practically all my spare hours out there. In No-
vember of 1934 1 decided to find out how much progress I was
making by entering my first golf tournament the Fort Worth
I went out there for the qualifying round. Somebody
asked me how I thought I'd do, and I said, "I think I'll shoot a
seventy-seven." I said things like that in those days, and I
wasn't trying to be smart it was just what was in my mind at
the time. And that's the sort of thing that can make you fa-
mous if it comes true.
It came true that day. I played my eighteen holes, and
my score was exactly seventy-seven. That made me the med-
alist for the tournament the next best score was eighty-two.
It did me good to see the headlines in the Texas news-
papers the next day: WONDER GIRL MAKES HER DEBUT
IN TOURNAMENT GOLF: TURNS IN 77 SCORE. It was
like 1932 all over again.
I guess the qualifying medal was as much as I could ex-
pect to win my first time out. Anyway, I got eliminated in an
early round of the tournament match play that followed.
Then it was winter. I was already thinking about the
Texas state women's championship in the spring of 1935. That
would be my next chance to establish myself as a golfer. It
was terribly important to me to win that tournament. I started
getting ready for it about three-and-a-half months before-
hand. I settled into as tough a siege as IVe ever gone through
for any sports event in my life.
IVe competed in national and international
championships where the name of the winner gets flashed
around the world. But no prize IVe won, either before or
since, looked any bigger to me than the Texas state women's
golf championship did when I took aim on it in 1935.
The tournament was scheduled for late April. I started
practicing for it in January. I still had plenty to learn. There'd
been too many interruptions in my golf playing for me to
have mastered the game yet.
Weekends I put in twelve and sixteen hours a day on
golf. During the working week I got up at the crack of dawn
and practiced from 5:30 until 8:30, when I had to leave for
the office. I worked until lunch time, then had a quick sand-
wich and spent the rest of my lunch hour practicing in the
boss's office, which was the only one that had a carpet He
told me it was all right to do it.
I practiced putting on the carpet, and I chipped balls
into his leather chair. They moved the chair over into a corner
for me, away from the window. And I stood in front of the
mirror on his closet door and practiced my grip, I watched to
see whether I had it exactly the way Stan Kertes and George
Aulbach had told me.
When the lunch hour was over, I went back to work until
3:30. After that I was free to go out to the golf course. George
Aulbach would give me an hour's instruction. Then I'd drill
and drill and drill on the different kinds of shots. I'd hit balls
until my hands were bloody and sore. I'd have tape all over
my hands, and blood all over the tape.
After it got too dark to practice any more, I went home
and had my dinner. Then Yd go to bed with the golf rule
book. Ill bet I have read that book through twenty-five times,
line by line. Today when I'm playing with anybody and a rule
question comes up, they say, "Ask Babe/*
There Ve been times when I've almost wished I didn't
know the rules so well. In 1946 I was at Spring Lake, New
Jersey, playing in the Spring Lake Women's Open. I started
out in the qualifying round and shot the first four holes in one
under par. On the fifth hole my tee shot sliced off into the
rough. I went over there and played out a nice iron shot to
I finished that hole, and the sixth one. After holing out on
the sixth green, I walked over to the ball washer, and all of a
sudden I saw that I had a strange ball in my hand. Td mis-
taken it for my ball in the rough back there on the fifth hole.
I said to the other girls in my foursome, "Well, that's it.
I've been playing the wrong baU. I've disqualified myself /*
Nobody else ever would have known the difference if I'd
kept quiet about it. But I'd have known the difference. I
wouldn't have felt right in my own mind. You have to play by
the rules of golf, just as you have to live by the rules of life.
There's no other way.
Anyhow, the importance of studying the rules was some-
thing both Stan Kertes and George Aulbach stressed when I
was learning golf. So in my preparations for that 1935 Texas
state women's championship, I wanted to be sure that I
wouldn't beat myself because of not knowing some of the
The tournament was being held at the River Oaks Coun-
try Club in Houston, and I was allowed to go over there a
little ahead of time. I went to Houston with my friend Bertha
Bowen of Fort Worth she and her husband, R, L. Bowen,
have always been like a godmother and godfather to me.
I got in some practicing out at the River Oaks course.
Jack Burke, the pro there, helped me. He's one of so many
fine men I've been indebted to over the years for showing me
how to improve my golf.
I'd come in after finishing a round, and he'd say, "How
did you do?" I might say, "I got a pretty good score today, but
I wasn't hitting that No. 3 iron too good.** He'd say, "Well,
let's work on it a little." And he'd come out and work with me.
He died several years ago. His son, Jack Burke, Jr., is one
of the name golfers on the men's professional circuit today.
Jackie was just a growing boy at the time I'm talking about,
but he was already a pretty fair golfer. Young Jackie and I
would get out there and play together. I wasn't going to let
any kid hit the ball farther than I did, and he wasn't going to
let any girl beat him. Each of us would try to outslug the
I always liked to play golf with men and boys. In fact,
people advised me to do it. I was told that it would be better
competition for me, and that I'd learn more by trying to hit
the ball the way the men did. I think that practicing so much
with the men is one of the reasons why I became a long hitter.
After a week or more of working out at River Oaks, I was
ready for the qualifying round on April twenty-second. This
was a tournament for women amateurs, of course. Maybe
you're wondering how I could play in it if I was a professional
athlete. Well, I was a professional with the Amateur Athletic
Union in the women's sports they governed, like basketball
and track But I'd never been a professional in golf, where the
amateur body is the United States Golf Association. Bertha
Bowen helped me on my entry for this tournament, and it
went through without any trouble.
So play began. I qualified all right, although I didn't head
the list the way I had in my other tournament. I shot an
eighty-four. The medal was taken by Mrs. Dan Chandler
Peggy Chandler. She had a seventy-nine. Peggy Chandler
was one of the big favorites. She'd finished one-two in this
championship for three straight years.
After the qualifying round the top thirty-two of us went
into the match play. My first opponent was Mrs. James Hutch-
inson of Houston. I beat her, six up and five to play. The
newspaper accounts of the opening round said that my long
tee shots were one of the big features of the day, but they also
said that I would face the "most severe golf test" of my career
in the second round, when I had to play Mrs. Walter Woodul
Maybe that helped to get me "up" for Mrs. Woodul. Or
maybe she just had a bad day. Anyhow, I won out by eight-
and-six. It was my easiest win of the tournament. In reporting
on that match the papers said, "Miss Didrikson has yet to
leave the first tee without a big gallery trailing."
There was a driving contest that same day, and I hit the
longest one 250 yards. After the contest was over the people
yelled for me to hit a few more, so I did. I got one ball out
there 265 yards.
Now I was in the quarterfinals. There I faced Mrs. F. C.
Rochon from Wichita Falls. Women's par at River Oaks was
seventy-seven. I was two over par on the first nine holes, but
I played even par coming back. I took the match by three-
That was a pretty tough battle, but things were due to
get tougher. I found that out in the semifinals the next day
against Mrs. R. E. Winger of Fort Worth. It was a gloomy,
windy day, with some showers mixed in. After the first nine
holes I was two up. Then the rain got so bad, and the course
got so messy, that we had to stop playing.
We waited and waited for the weather to ease up. It was
several hours before things improved enough for us to go
back out there and start playing again. We picked up where
we'd left off at the tenth hole. When we got on the green,
it was so waterlogged that I thought Td try chipping my ball
into the cup instead of using my putter. The shot didn't
work Mrs. Winger got down all right with her putter to
win the hole, so my lead was cut to one up.
I played her even through the next four holes, then she
won the fifteenth to square the match. We halved the next
two, and went into the last hole with the match still tied.
My drive was long, but it went off the f airway into some
trees at the right. Mrs. Winger's drive was right down the
middle but not quite as far. She caught a trap with her
second shot, while I got back on the fairway with mine. Then
we both hit the green with our third shots. My ball was about
twenty feet from the cup. Hers was about three feet farther
It had stopped raining, but that green still was plenty
wet. Mrs. Winger took her putt, and it was a beauty. The
ball stopped just at the edge of the hole. Then I made my
putt. It was an uphill roll. Water was coining off that ball as
it started up there. It kept on going, and it rolled right in
"Some women cried over the dramatic finish/* Bill Parker
wrote in his Associated Press story about the match. "Men
hollered. Babe smiled, walked off the green still America's
wonder girl athlete and probably the most promising woman
golf player in the United States.'* He wound up by saying
that I would be the underdog in the finals the next day, since
it was only my second tournament and Td be going up against
a real experienced player.
That was Peggy Chandler, who had won the qualifying
medal and was one of the original tournament favorites. This
was the fourth year in a row she'd reached the finals. She'd
taken the championship one of the other three times.
The final was a thirty-six-hole match. It was still over-
cast when we set out on our first eighteen-hole round in the
morning. The course was soggy. There were a lot of water
puddles around. In spite of all the wetness, I started off as if I
was going to set that course on fire. On the first hole I got
an eagle three, while she took a six.
We seesawed back and forth for several holes after that,
and then I hit a real hot streak. There was a gallery of several
thousand people, and most of them seemed to be yelling for
me. For a while there I gave them plenty to yell about. In-
side of twelve holes I was five up.
Then I lost the touch, and Peggy Chandler got hot. She
won all those holes back. In fact, she took every one of the
last six holes in the morning round, so when we went in for
lunch she was one up.
People told me after that everybody was saying, "It's
the old story. A kid against a veteran. The kid has folded.
She's all through now/*
By the time of the afternoon round there was bright sun-
shine. The fairways were pretty well dried out now, although
there was still water in some of the hazards. The weather had
settled down, and I began to settle down too. I was still
hitting some wild shots, especially with my irons. All day
long I kept getting myself in trouble, and having to recover
from it. Only now I was bringing the recoveries off. I'd been
seven over par in the morning. In the afternoon I shot an
But Peggy Chandler was shooting good golf herself. I
birdied the first hole in the afternoon. She birdied it too. It
s kept on like that. She was matching me stroke for stroke,
and sometimes going me one stroke better.
It was the eighth hole that gave me back my confidence.
She was three up then. I hadn't won a hole all afternoon, but
on the eighth green I dropped a twenty-five-foot putt for a
birdie four to beat out her par five.
I won the next hole, too. She took the one after that.
Then I won two holes in a row to even up the match. It
stayed that way coming into the sixteenth hole, which was
the thirty-fourth hole of our match.
The sixteenth was a long hole a par five. Peggy Chand-
ler hit a good tee shot. Mine was even better. It went 250
yards, way in front of hers, only it landed in a ditch that ran
across the middle of the fairway.
She played her second shot not too far short of the green.
Then I took my three iron and banged my ball out of that
ditch and on past the green. It caine to a stop about twenty
yards beyond in a roadway that the trucks used. It wound
up in a big rut almost a small ditch. There was water in
the bottom of it.
Peggy Chandler was farther away from the pin than I
was, so her third shot came next. She hit the baE up there
so close to the cup that she had almost a sure birdie four.
That really put the pressure on me for my third shot. I
couldn't afford to lose this hole. I couldn't afford to lose any
holes at all if I was going to win this golf championship.
I studied that shot carefully. It was a tough one for a
beginner. The water in this deep rut covered the lower part
of my ball. I said to myself, "Now Babe, you can't make any
more mistakes. You've got to take your time and pky this
one just right*'
I took a sand wedge that Gene Sarazen had given me
when I first met him a while before. I thought of everything
I'd been taught about how to play this kind of shot how I
should stand with my weight on my left foot and all that.
And I remembered the first rule of golf that everybody had
told me: "Look at the ball real good/*
So I swung, and I did everything right, and dug that ball
up there. I could see it running toward the pin. And then
there was a roar, and the people behind me came rushing up,
and somebody knocked me face down into that muddy ditch.
The ball had gone into the hole for an eagle three.
That turned out to be the deciding shot of the match. It
put me one up with only two holes to play. We halved the
thirty-fifth. On the last hole, which was a par five, I was on
the green in two shots, while it took her three. When I putted
to the edge of the cup with my third shot, and she failed to
hole out her putt for a four, she conceded me a birdie four
and the match. So I won it two up.
I was on top of the world that day. It had taken me longer
than I originally figured to get going in golf, but I was rolling
at last. I had the Texas championship, and now I was ready
to shoot for the national championship. I wanted to hit all
the big women's tournaments around the country. I already
had my entry in for the Southern Women's Amateur at Louis-
ville on May twentieth.
Well, I had won that Texas tournament on April twenty-
seventh. Two days later the newspapers reported that the
United States Golf Association was looking into my case to
see whether I should be allowed to play in any more amateur
tournaments. It seemed they'd had complaints from people
who thought that because I'd done professional things in
athletics, I didn't belong in amateur golf.
On May fourteenth the bottom dropped out of every-
thing. The USGA said I couldn't play in the Southern or any
of the other tournaments. They ruled me out of women's golf
on the grounds that I was a professional.
When the United States Golf Association de-
clared me ineligible for the women's amateur golf tourna-
ments back there in the spring of 1935, they never did an-
nounce the reasons why they had decided I was a pro. I know
that complaints by certain Texas women entered into it. Any-
how, Archie M. Reid of the USGA was the fellow who issued
the ruling, and all he said for publication was that they were
doing it "for the best interest of the game."
A lot of people in Texas got up in arms. Ben S. Wood-
head, president of the Beaumont Country Club, petitioned
the USGA to give me a full hearing* I had represented the
club in the Texas women's championship, and he said they
were confident I could clear myself of any charges.
Jack Burke called it "the dirtiest deal I've heard of in a
long time." Jimmy Demaret said it was "the biggest joke of the
year." A lot of the sportswriters panned the decision. The
Texas Women's Golf Association spoke up in my behalf too.
I didn't do any sounding off myself. When you get a
big setback like that, there's no use crying about it. It was
something like the time in 1953 when I found out I had can-
cer. You just have to face your problem and figure out what
to do next.
What I did back there in 1935 was to sign a contract
with a sporting-goods company, P. Goldsmith Sons. Later
they merged with the MacGregor Golf Company, and that
became the brand name for their golf equipment. Goldsmith
paid me a retainer of $2500 a year and brought out a line
of women's golf clubs in my name, just as if I was already
Bobby Jones or something. And I got booked for a series of
exhibition matches with Gene Sarazen, who was the top man
in the business at that time.
Gene played the golf and I put on the show. We'd go
around to these different places and team up against some
other pair. Our first opponents were Helen Hicks, who was
one of the first women golf champions to turn professional,
and Johnny Rogers. I believe the match was played at George
S. May's Tarn o' Shanter Country Club in Niles, Illinois. The
grass off the fairway was real high, and I could hardly move
around in it. I was all dressed up for my first professional
appearance. There were no special sports clothes for women
to play golf in then no golf dresses or golf shoes.
Sometimes both of our opponents would be men pros.
These were best-ball matches, and Gene Sarazen carried the
load. I generally didn't help him much, except maybe for
Td had several boy friends as a youngster, but
when I met George Zaharias at the '38 Los
Angeles Open, I knew this was IT. Less than
a year later we were married in St. Louis.
International News Photo
Winning the 1940 Western Open, at Milwaukee, was a big step. Mrs. C. B. Willard
(left) head of the Western, presented the cup filled with white orchids as Mrs.
Russell Mann, runner-up, and a grand sport, looks on.
Just before teeing off in a War Relief match with John Montague, Sylvia Annen-
berg and Babe Ruth. We drove off at 1 P.M. with nearly 25,000 in our wake.
I recall I had a six-footer for a 32 on the 9th hole when the mob swallowed us up!
International News Photo
John G. Hemmer
I'd never driven a trotter before when the chance came at Pine-
hurst in "43. It was exhilarating to say the least.
Eleanor Tennant, who coached
Alice Marble to two world titles,
took me in hand in "44, and I was
really enthusiastic until the USLTA
banned me as a pro in a sport Fd
never even competed in.
Way back when, I struggled with sand traps but after being on an exhibition
tour with Gene Sarazen, sand and I were friends.
This was taken on the practice
green at Augusta, Georgia, in
April *47. I had decided to try
for the British Women's Ama-
teur . . . and Bob Jones was check-
ing my stroke.
Wide World Photo
Associated Press Photo
Battling the elements. At
Gullane, in those British Isles,
weather is a tremendous fac-
tor. Here, I'm driving from
the 3rd tee in the 2nd round.
My 3rd-roimd foe, Mrs. Val
Reddan, former Irish cham-
pion, was a lovely girl but
wasn't on her game the day
we met. I took it 6-and-4.
I like this picture, taken from the rough on the 8th hole at Gullane.
I recovered poorly from practically this identical spot in the morning
round of my final match against Jacqueline Gordon, but in the afternoon
I whipped that ball up and out ... for a long carry, stiff to the pin.
Jacqueline, wearing checkered skirt, watches flight of the ball. I won
Wide World Photo
The British liked me, I hope, almost as much as I loved them. Here,
I'm receiving the big cup, the first American-born girl to bring it home.
Denver Home-coming-. It was the red carpet when
George took me home following the British victory.
Fred M. Mazzulla
When the movie people offered me $300,000 to make a series of instructional
shorts, I couldn't reject the offer. I turned pro again under the managerial eyes
of Fred Corcoran. P.S. Those golf movies never jelled nor did the $300,000.
Renewing friendship with an-
other swatter. Ted Williams, a
big stakes winner in Fred Cor-
coran's promotional stable, can
blast a golf ball too, but after
talking things over we decided
Ted would stick to his game; me
This time I signed up with the Wilson Sporting
Goods people. This is a lovely study of L. B. Icely
-and what a promoterl-Wilson's president, who
died early in *48.
I received expert coaching from these star
bait casters at the Sportsmen's Show in
Boston. Jack Sharkey points; Ted Williams
views all quizzically as I register a frozen
At the Los Angeles Celebrity Tourna-
ment, Danny Kaye shows why he
hasn't been tapped for the love scene
in Romeo and Juliet.
I put on a trick-shot exhibition at the Yankee Stadium before a night game when
the old baseball yen returned. I pitched to Joe DiMaggio>, a gentleman, and batted
against Spec Shea, another gallant. It was fun!
George May pins a competitor's
number on Joe Louis. As an ama-
teur, Joe often moves around in
With Jim Thorpe at the Celeb-
rity Tournament at Washington.
We had been voted the top
athletes of the first half-century.
Wide World Photo
Scouts Jimmy Dolvin and Cecil Cannon, two boy friends at Druid Hills,
Atlanta in 1951. This was during the Women's Golf Open.
When you're banging at Colonel
Par every day, those 1-putt greens
are money in the till. Here, my bid
for a bird just misses in that '51
Women's Open. Betsy Rawls won
the title with a crackling 293.
Body English sometimes helps that
ball to drop. When the chips are
down, this is strictly involuntary
Wide World Photo
I wish he was mine ... and I guess I show it. With my caddy, Kent
Foley, 16, after winning the Western Open in 1950. A sweetheart,
young Kent earned the $100 I gave him.
Wide World Photo
Dot Kielty, Women's Amateur winner; Frank Stranahan, Men's Ama-
teur titllst and me with Women's Pro cup at Tarn O'Shanter in 1950.
My total of 293 for 72 holes was 11 under women's par. I was in a
Associated Press Newsphoto
We were playing at Ponte Vedra, Florida, when a press poll announced
I'd been selected as the girl athlete of the year with the Bauer sisters,
Marlene and Alice, in 3rd place. They're from Midland, Texas and
they're sure cute.
You know, sometimes our caddies must think our golf
bags are all this size! But really, they're not.
The movie colony takes its golf seriously and
Katharine Hepburn has a pretty fine golfing
background. She once reached the high brackets
of women's play in Connecticut, her home state.
International News Photo
International News Photo
Spencer Tracy, a sports promoter in the movie, "Pat
and Mike," with (L to R) Helen Dettweiler, Bev Han-
son, me and Betty Hicks. This was taken on the Coast
in April '52, shortly before I became really ill.
one or two holes. I wasn't a finished golfer yet. But I could
give the gallery some laughs, and I could hit that long ball
off the tee.
Sometimes the headline on the local sports page wouldn't
even mention who won the match. It would be, DIDRIK3ON
PANICS ^M AT BEVERLY, or, BABE DIDRIKSON OUT-
DRIVES GENE SARAZEN.
It wasn't too unusual for me to get tee shots of 280 yards,
300 yards and more. Once I hit a drive 346 yards with the
benefit of the wind and a good hard bounce. The other women
didn't slug the ball that way. Take Joyce Wethered, the
British star. She was one of the women golfers I used to
read about when I was a lad growing up. At the time of my
Sarazen tour she had gone professional and was making ap-
pearances in this country. I got to play against her a couple
She had a beautiful swing. She'd been classed by quite
a few experts as the finest swinger in the game, man or
woman. And that was the way of golf over in England and
Scotland. You didn't hit the ball You swung at it The idea
was to develop a nice, graceful swing.
But Joyce Wethered didn't hit the ball very far. I think I
could have taken a two-iron and driven it past where she hit
her wood. I don't mean that she wasn't a great all-around
player. She and I scored about the same in those two matches.
But in women's golf today you've got to have that distance.
You've got to be a slugger as well as a swinger. You don't just
go for the green. You go for the pin.
It was on that tour with Gene Sarazen that I got my
start at entertaining galleries. I'd kid him, and kid the crowd,
and of course he'd kid me some too. Maybe I'd overdrive a
green, and mess myself up coming back, and he'd say, "Too
I'd say, "Too bad? What's too bad? Didn't you see that
Or I'd get into a bad spot, and turn around to the gallery
before I swung and say, "Watch this. My best shot of the day."
And darned if I generally didn't bring it off.
I just love a gallery. It bothers some athletes to have
people always crowding around them. I wouldn't feel right
if the people weren't there. Even in a tournament, I like to
kid around with the gallery, except when I'm real tired, the
way I sometimes get if I overdo things.
And when I'm putting on a golf demonstration we
call them clinics 111 break my neck to give the people a
good show. I'll bear down on that old Texas drawl, because
they seem to like it, and I'll say, "You all come closer now,
because you've heard of Walter Hagen, you've heard of
Bobby Jones, you've heard of Ben Hogan, but today you're
looking at the best."
I have an assortment of trick shots I've worked out to
loosen up the audience. Ill set up five balls on the tee, and
drive them one after another, and the fifth ball must be in
the air before the first one has landed. Or 111 shoot left-
handed I can hit a ball pretty good that way too.
On the green I may stick my foot in front of the ball,
and make the ball hop over it into the cup. Then I'll throw
down some clubs, like an ice skater setting up a row of bar-
rels to leap across, and Til hit the ball with my putter so
that it jumps over all the clubs.
I keep wisecracking with the gallery. I may hit a real
long one, and then say, "Boyl Don't you men wish you could
hit a ball like that?" I always tel them, TLadies and gentle-
men, whatever I say today can't be held against me, because
it's for your entertainment/* And iVe never had a gallery that
didn't seem to take my kidding the way it was intended.
Gene Sarazen and I drew fine galleries during our tour.
We played these exhibition matches at country clubs all
over the East and the Middle West. He was just as wonderful
to me as he could be. I kept asking him questions and ques-
tions. If I was going to be the best, I wanted to learn from
the best. And he was the best in championship golf at that
In between matches he would get out and work with
me. He was a master of trap shots, and he's the one who
really taught me how to play out of traps. I guess I'm now
considered one of the best trap-shot players in golf myself,
and that's been a strong point in my game. I seldom get into
a spot so bad that I'm not capable of playing a good shot
Once when we had two weeks off between exhibitions,
Gene said, "Babe, I talked to my wife Mary on the phone
last night, and she wants you to come visit us during this lay-
off. You can rest a while, and then we'll work on the golf some
So I went to visit the Sarazens. They had this beautiful
farm in Connecticut. There were a lot of cows and stuff it
was a dairy farm. They had a little pond with nice cool spring
water. I rested and swam and practiced golf.
I came off that Sarazen tour at the end of the summer in
1935 with a really good bankroll. I'd played something like
eighteen of those exhibition matches around the East and
Middle West at $500 each. I was still getting my $2500 a
year from the sporting-goods company, and they were giving
me all the golf supplies 1 needed free. Now I was set to go
out to Southern California and concentrate on my golf game
for a good long while, the way I'd tried to do a couple of
I took Momma and Poppa with me, and also my sister
Lillie and my younger brother Arthur, or Bubba. I'd bought
Poppa a car after his operation in 1933, when I began making
money again on the basketball stuff. I got him a 1933 De Soto
sedan. I believe it helped make him well again. He was so
happy with it. For the first time in their lives he and Momma
could go riding around wherever they wanted. He'd be out
in the garage every chance he got, polishing up the car as
he puffed away on his pipe.
I had my own car, so we drove out to California in the
two automobiles. We got a nice little apartment with two
bedrooms and a fold-down bed in the living room. I think
the rent was about $27 a month, and we watched our other
expenses too. But we were enjoying life.
Nowadays I sometimes have trouble sleeping, but then
I could realy sleep. I'd be pounding my ear in the morning,
and Momma would wake me up. She'd have breakfast ready
for me, and then she'd say, "Now go play your golf/ 7
I took some more lessons from Stan Kertes, and I kept on
practicing and practicing. There was one driving range where
rd often hit balls from morning to night. Some nights the
proprietor would keep the lights on an hour or two after his
regular closing time, because I was giving a show that was
good for his business. There'd be a big crowd of people stand-
ing around watching me.
For the next couple of years I spent most of my time on
the West Coast, working on my golf and playing exhibitions.
The Goldsmith people booked some for me, and I made ap-
pearances around California with Stan Kertes, and things like
Some writers have said that around this time a big
change took place in me. Their idea is that I used to be all
tomboy, with none of the usual girls* interests, and then all
of a sudden I switched over to being feminine.
Wei, with almost any woman athlete, you seem to get
that tomboy talk. It happens especially with girls who play
things that generally aren't considered women's sports, like
basketball and baseball, the way I did.
I hear the same routine about girls on the golf circuit
today. They call young Mary Lena Faulk "the tomboy from
Thomasville, Georgia." The only reason for it is that ^tom-
boy" goes with "Thomasvifle. 9 * There's no more tomboy to
Mary Lena Faulk than any girl you ever saw. She's as much
interested in dancing and things like that as anybody else.
All the girls are.
Patty Berg has been The Redheaded Tomboy" and
"The Minneapolis Tomboy.'* There Ve been stories about how
she used to play tackle football with the boys in the neighbor-
hood where she grew up. One of the boys was Bud Wilkin-
son, who is the University of Oklahoma football coach today.
I met a fellow once who said, "I played football with Patty
Berg, and she tackled me and broke my shoulder blade,* 7
Actually, a lot of writers just have to sit at a typewriter,
and they don't always know the athlete or personality they're
writing about. Sometimes they get to meet them and some-
times they don't.
As for me, I was determined to be an athlete, and a ine
athlete. But I was always interested IB the women's things
around the house, like cooking and sewing and decorating.
I loved all the pretty things, and I still love all the pretty
1 often have people come up to me and say, "I have a
daughter who's going to be a wonderful athlete. She's the big-
gest tomboy in the neighborhood." And I think that's fine,
being a tomboy when you're a youngster. Because the years
will take care of any girl who is a tomboy. When you get to
a certain age, and you start growing in places where you
weren't developed before, then nothing can stop you from
changing. You've just got to go with it.
But I don't believe my personality has changed. I think
anyone who knew me when I was a kid will tell you that
Tm still the same Babe. It's just that as you get older, you're
not as rambunctious as you used to be. You mellow down a
I had dates and boyfriends from the time when I was
working in Dallas. For a while there were two that were
fighting each other. I couldn't help getting a kick out of
that. I went with one of them for several years. He was
serious about wanting to get married, but I wasn't. I was too
busy working on my sports career.
I still wasn't thinking about marriage when I entered
the Los Angeles Open tournament in January 1938. I was
twenty-three then. The Los Angeles Open is one of the regular
tournaments on the men's circuit, but there was no rule that
said a woman couldn't play in it. So I got in there. I knew
I wasn't going to beat the top men pros, but I was still try-
ing to establish myself as the greatest woman golfer.
You didn't have to qualify for the tournament, although
only the leading scorers for the first thirty-six holes were al-
lowed to play the last thirty-six. I wasn't the only one who
didn't have any business being in it. There were some fellows
who were good part-time golfers, but not in a class with the
real pros. One was C. Pardee Erdman, a Presbyterian minis-
ter who was professor of religion at Occidental College in
Los Angeles he's dean of the college now.
Another was George Zaharias, a big-time professional
wrestler. I found out afterwards that he'd done some of his
golf playing with Lloyd Mangnun and a couple of other pros.
One day when he broke eighty he said as a joke, "Now I'm
ready to enter the Los Angeles Open/* And they told him,
"Why not? You'll have some fun and it'll be good experience
Well, they had the three of us play together the girl,
the minister and the wrestler. One of the Los Angeles sports-
writers I think it was Mel Gallagher said, "Babe, come on
over here and meet your partners. I want our photographer
to get a picture of the three of you.**
What an introduction George and I had! One minute we
were saying hello, and the next minute photographers were
crowding around and calling for him to put wrestling holds
on me. He put his arm around me, pretending to apply neck
holds and staff. And I didn't mind it at all
We drove off the first tee. As I walked down the fairway
I kept looking back at George, and he seemed to be sort of
George was twenty-nine years old then. He was husky
and black-haired and handsome. His parents were Greek.
The sportswriters called him "The Crying Greek from Cripple
Creek/* which was a Colorado town, but George actually
came from Pueblo in Colorado. He was bom Theodore Veto-
yards. He changed his name to George Zahaxias after he
went into the ring the promoters thought his original name
wasn't catchy enough.
George's dad went to work in a steel mill in Colorado
after coming to this country, and then settled down on a
farm outside Pueblo. These are all things I learned later on,
of course. George worked on his father's farm, and also in the
steel mills, which must have helped to develop those tre-
mendous muscles of his. When he was still in his teens he
went to live with an uncle in Oklahoma City and learn the
hat-cleaning business* He shined shoes too.
Then the wrestling bug bit him. He had a hard time
breaking in, but finally he became a real attraction. By the
time I met him, he'd already been able to build a new home
for his parents, and set a couple of brothers-in-law up in
business, and pay for the education of his two younger
brothers, Chris and Tom. People paid to see George wrestle
because in the ring he was the big bad villain that everybody
hated, but outside it he had the nicest quiet-spoken way.
A lot of great golf was played the first day of that 1938
Los Angeles Open. Jimmy Thomson and Willie Goggin had
sixty-fives. Lloyd Mangrum, Henry Picard, and a half a dozen
others had sixty-eights.
But practically all the gallery went with George Zaharias,
Pardee Erdman and myself. Those people didn't see too much
good golf. My mind didn't seem to be on my game. Pardee
Erdman, who is one of the finest fellows I know, was the
only one of us to do any real playing.
I liked the way a writer named Jack Singer summed it
al up in one of the Los Angeles newspapers tie next day.
The only person in the whole gallery who was certain
of what was going on was Mrs. Edgar Richards. Now there's
one woman who knows what the score is. She ought to. She
was the scorekeeper. I guess religion still pays, because the
professor finished with a 75. Zaharias finished with 83, the
Babe finished with 84 and Mrs. Richards finished with writer's
After our round was over George invited us to have re-
freshments with him and some of the other boys, so we did.
Pardee Erdman and I had cokes the others had cold beer.
We sat around quite a while talking, and then I had to ex-
cuse myself and get back home. Momma and Lillie were with
me at the time, and I knew they'd be waiting dinner and
everything. Poppa was back home in Beaumont, working and
looking after things there.
As I left, George called out, "111 be seeing you tomor-
With my eighty-four in the first round, there was no
chance that I'd qualify for the final thirty-six holes which
I did do a few years later in the Los Angeles Open but I
was looking forward to that second round. I already had the
feeling that this George Zaharias was my kind of guy, and
it turned out that he was thinking I was his kind of girl
The second day we sat down for refreshments again after
playing our golf, and George invited me to come back to the
apartment where he was living with his brothers, Tom and
Chris, and have dinner with them. I phoned home and told
them I was going out for dinner.
Each of us had our own car there at the Griffith Park
course, so we set off in the two cars. I was supposed to be
following George. But this was strange territory for me. I was
living over in Hollywood, right near the Paramount studio,
while George was in another section. I got confused in the
traffic and took a left turn that I wasn't supposed to make.
In his mirror George saw me take that wrong fork. He
got his own car turned around. He came after me and finally
caught up to me. He said, "Axe you trying to run away from
But I wasn't trying to do that. We got to his apartment,
and George broiled some steaks. I met his brothers, who were
wrestlers too. Pretty soon they were demonstrating holds on
me. George was watching pretty close to see that they didn't
get rough with me. Which they didn't, of course.
Those steaks were fine. I remember another night when
George cooked dinner for me. He put a chicken in the oven,
and pretty soon it started to sinell bad. The smell got worse
and worse. George took the chicken out to see what was
wrong. He found that they'd cleaned the chicken at the store,
and then wrapped the insides in a little package and put it
in the chicken. George had been roasting the insides and all.
After that first dinner at George's apartment we made a
date to meet at the golf course the next day and watch the
boys play the third round of the Los Angeles Open. George
and I had been eliminated by then. We watched some of the
third round, and he asked me if Td like to go out dancing
I said, "Sure. I love to dance/*
I went home first. George came there to pick me up, and
met Momma and Lillie. Momma liked him straight off.
We went dancing at a place called the Cotton Club. It's
gone now. I remember we each tad our pictures sketched in
charcoal. He autographed his and gave it to me, and I auto-
graphed mine and gave it to him.
It was about one o'clock when I got home. Momma
wasn't used to that, because I'd always been a great one for
training and getting to bed early. She was waiting up, and
she said, "Babe, you're out late. I was worried about you"
I said, "Oh, Momma, it's all right George and I wanted to
do some dancing."
She said, "Well, that's fine. He's a nice man.**
It sort of built up from there. George took to calling me
"Romance," and when I wrote a note to him I'd sign it
"Romance." We were going together real steady, except that
he had to be away a lot to wrestle, and I had my golf book-
I might stop by his place and find nobody home, and
slide a note under his door: "I was here, but you weren't.
Romance." Then when he got back my telephone would
ring, and I'd say, "Hello,** and he'd say, **This is Romance."
Finally the time came when I was going to drive Momma
and Lfflie home to Beaumont. George had to stay and wrestle
around Calif omia. We said we'd write and keep in touch by
telephone, and see each other again as soon as we could.
Momma and Lillie and I set off in the car. We were
going to stop off and visit my oldest sister, Dora, who had
married and gone to live in Phoenix, Arizona, She's still liv-
ing in Arizona, although she's in a place called Morristown
now. Her married name is Mrs. Clarence F. Cole. Dora has
two sons, Frank and Harold.
The farther away we got from California, the worse I
was feeling. Momma could sense it. I'd been telling her how
crazy I was about George, and she thought it was fine that we
were in love with each other.
When we got to Phoenix, she said, "You want to go
back to California, don't you?"
I said, "Yes, Momma, I do. Would you and LiUie mind
taking the train the rest of the way to Beaumont?"
She said, "Yes, we'll take the train. You go on back and
I drove that car as fast as I could go 420 miles back to
George's apartment. And he wasn't there. I found a note on
the door. It said, "Romance, I'm in San Francisco/' He'd gone
up there to keep a wrestling date.
The way George told it later was, *I knew one of us had
to come back, and in case it was you, I wanted you to know
where I was."
So George wasn't home at the apartment, but his brother
Chris was. I said, "Chris, will you drive up to San Francisco
with me to see George?"
He said, "You mean now? Do you know how long a drive
that is? It's almost 460 miles/' Then he said, "All right. I'll
We drove all night. Not long after dawn we got to the
St. Marks Hotel in San Francisco, where the wrestlers were
staying. Chris and I went up and pounded on the door of
George's room. He came out and said, "Come here, Ro-
mance." He gave me a big kiss. And then I wasn't lonesome
I got a room at the St. Marks myself so I could be near
George until he finished up with his wrestling in San Fran-
cisco. Eventually I did have to go to Beaumont, but from then
on 3 George tried to arrange Ms bookings so he'd be near
where I was, and I did the same thing with my golf appear-
We got to see a lot of each other around the time of the
Western Women's Open in June. The tournament was held
that year in Colorado Springs, which wasn't far from George's
hometown of Pueblo. He fixed up his wrestling dates for
around there. He took me out to meet his folks, and I spent
quite a bit of time with them. His mother didn't speak too
much English, but she and I got along fine Just the same.
I was eliminated in the semifinal round of the tourna-
ment. But that particular summer, losing a golf match didn't
seem to matter as much to me as it ordinarily did.
From Colorado we drove in my car to St. Louis. I left
George there and went on to Cincinnati, where my sporting-
goods company had its headquarters. Then I came back to
St. Louis myself.
We announced our engagement in St. Louis on July 22,
1938. We wanted to have a wedding with both the families
present and everything. George was mostly wrestling out of
St. Louis at this point, and I was able to spend a lot of my
time there too. But one or the other of us kept having to
take off for an appearance some place else. What with this
commitment and that, we never could seem to work out a
date for the wedding.
Finally it was December. We were both in St. Louis
again, and George got real stem with me. He said, "We're
going to get married this week or call the deal off."
I said, *lt ? s a deal. Let's go!"
When George and I decided not to go through
any more delays on getting married, Tom Packs, the St. Louis
wrestling promoter, volunteered to hold the wedding at his
house. So we arranged to get married there on December 23,
1938. It was a very nice affair. We invited some of our best
St. Louis friends, like Leo Durocher and Joe Medwick of the
Cardinals, and their wives.
Then there was Bud Hobart, and Morris Shevlin, and
Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Solomon and Mr. and Mrs. Matt Zottka.
The ceremony was performed by another friend, Justice of
the Peace A. P. Jannopoula.
Leo Durocher was George's best man, while Mrs. Du-
roeher stood up with me. That was Leo's former wife. She
was a dress designer there in St. Louis, She made me a
beautiful outfit for the wedding.
When the ceremony was al! over, I Just sat back in a
chair and let out a great big sigh. George said, "Well, honey,
do you feel any different now?"
I said, "Yeah."
Then he said, "Honey, iVe got you at last 9 *
And I said, "No, IVe got you."
Do you remember the song, "A Slow Boat To China/*
that was popular around then? Well, George asked me where
I'd like to go for my honeymoon trip, and I said ? "I think I'd
like to take a slow boat to Australia/*
But there couldn't be any honeymoon trip just then. We
both had too many business dates to keep. We stayed around
St. Louis for a while, and then we went back to the West
Coast. We were living near our friends Bill and Betty Bryant,
who were operating the Brentwood Country Club.
One morning in April of 1939, George suddenly says out
of a clear sky, "Honey, get yourself packed up. We're going
on a trip/'
I said, "Where are we going? Is it to Florida?**
He said, *Tm not going to teU you. Just get enough
clothes together so you'l be ready for warm weather or cool,*'
Bill Bryant came by in his station wagon, and we loaded
our stuff in. He drove us to a pier in San Pedro, and George
took me aboard this boat. I said to George, "Now will you tel
me? Where are we going?**
He said, "Honey, we're on that slow boat to Australia/*
On the way over we stopped off at Honolulu for three
weeks. We rented a place where we could keep house. We
loafed around the beach, and I tried out recipes for Hawaiian
dishes and everything. And I rented a sewing machine and ran
up half a dozen Hawaiian-style shirts for George, with those
short sleeves and the fancy patterns.
Then we got on a boat to sail the rest of the way to Aus-
tralia. We were traveling first class, and it was like a morgue
dressing for dinner every night, and nobody having any
fun. There was no action.
The people down in third class seemed to be enjoying
themselves. So we asked the purser to switch us to a third-
class cabin. It wasn't as big or comfortable as our first-class
cabin, but we figured we'd have a better time that way. And
we were right.
We met a swell gang of people in third class. There was
a whole troupe of entertainers going over to perform in Aus-
tralia. We became very good friends with some of them, like
Tony La Mont and his wife Betty. She sang, and he walked
the tightrope and did comedy stuff. There were tumblers and
acrobats. And there were the Andrini Brothers, who played
the mandolin and guitar.
We'd get out on the top deck at night, with the water as
beautiful as anything in the moonlight. The Andrini brothers
would play, and some of the other musicians. And the singers
would cut loose, and Yd get in there with my harmonica. It
was a wonderful trip.
I was just enjoying life in those months after I got
married. I was putting on a lot of weight and not bearing down
very hard on my golf. But I found myself back in the golf
business when we got to Australia. That George, with his
business head, didn't see why we shouldn't make some money
out of our trip. All during that time when I thought he'd
forgotten about my wanting to go to Australia^ he'd been
working out arrangements. He'd lined up some wrestling
matches for himself, and a lot of golf exhibitions for me.
A fellow named Archie Keene, who had promoted an
Australian tour for Gene Sarazen and Helen Hicks, made my
bookings. They gave us a little bitty English car to travel
around in. You should have seen George trying to get into it.
One of the cartoonists over there did a cartoon of us stuck
in the mud, with George sitting in the car and me at the back
end pushing it out.
I played all around Australia Sydney, Perth, Bath and
dozens of other places. About the only big place I didn't get
to play in was Melbourne. Every time I was scheduled there
In one exhibition I had the Prime Minister of Australia
in my gallery. I don't remember his name. He was a man about
eighty years old, and he walked around the whole eighteen
holes. At the finish, he said he ? d enjoyed watching and would
like to see me play again some time.
When I first got over there, some people didn't believe all
the talk they'd heard about my long hitting and so forth. This
story by an Australian golf writer named Jack Dillo shows
the way things were:
"The golf of Miss Didrikson has made a very great im-
pression on Victorian golfers. Upon her arrival I advised her
that her advance publicity had been of a silly ballyhoo variety*
and that the intelligent people who supported golf were
skeptical about the tales of her long drives.
"This really delightful girl accepted the challenge
squarely. The following day at Victoria in a private exhibi-
tion for a handful of writers, what this magnificent specimen
of athletic womanhood showed us certainly was impressive.
**The plain fact is that Miss Didrikson is a vastly better
golfer than Miss Helen Hicks, Miss Pam Barton or any other
woman we have seen. She can hit a ball farther than all ex-
cept a very few men. At Victoria the day was bitterly cold,
the turf was thick and dead, and generally it was a perfect
day for a test for anyone to endure. Here are some of the
genuine and checked figures, with turf not helping the least
and over level ground. She hit drives of 230, 245 and 250
yards in the first three holes. She hit her first mashie 170 yards
and another 180 yards. In bunkers her class was that of Sara-
zen. Her approach work from 140-30 yards from the green
was not completely finished and she was good but not overly
impressive on the greens. If Miss Didrikson tightens up her
short game, she may get a place among the best men pro-
fessionals in golf."
I played big courses in Australia and I played little ones.
Once George and I drove 125 miles in our little car to get
to a nine-hole course in the back country. When we arrived,
I wondered at first why we'd bothered to come. The course
was in terrible shape. They didn't have the water to keep it up.
There were cracks in the greens and everything.
The clubhouse looked like an old barn that hadn't been
used for months. There were cobwebs all over the place,
When I got there, eight or ten women were in this clubhouse
rushing around like fury. I didn't know what they were trying
Outside I saw a surrey here, and a horse and buggy
there. It turned out that one family had driven their horse
120 miles to get to this exhibition. Another had come eighty
miles. There were people from all sorts of out-of-the-way
spots who couldn't have got to see me play anywhere except
at this little club. The course had been closed down, but they
opened it up for my exhibition. They cut the grass on the
greens and all that.
I played around the course, and then they invited me to
come into the clubhouse. I couldn't believe it was the same
old bam I'd seen earlier. Those women had gotten it all
cleaned and spruced up. They had ribbons strung up top to
take away the rafter effect. There were decorations all around.
And they had these big long tables set with beautiful table
cloths, and just loaded down with cakes and cookies and tea.
I received a lot of fine hospitality and entertainment while I
was in Australia, but that day sticks in my mind more than any
of the others, because it was so unexpected and they'd gone
to so much trouble over it.
One of my biggest golfing events over there was a special
exhibition I had with the Australian PGA champion, Charley
Conners. We played at a beautiful course, the Yarra Yarra
Country Club. It was a rainy day, but there was a big crowd
of people out with their umbrellas and rubber boots and rain-
They didn't seem to have the arrangements for handling
a crowd that we do at the big courses in this country. Over
here they put ropes up to try to keep the people off the
fairways and stuff. At Yarra Yarra, there was little or none of
that. We*d hit our drives and start walking down the fairway.
I'd look back, and the fairway behind us would be just black
with people following after us. That crowd almost ruined
their lovely grass*
I played with Charley Conners under men's conditions,
driving from the back tees and everything. I was shooting
good golf in spite of the weather. Playing my second shot on
the last hole, which was a par five, I hit the best four-iron
of my life. The ball sailed high over a clump of trees and went
on the green right up to the pin.
So I closed out with an eagle three. That gave me a
seventy-two for the round. Charley Conners shot a seventy-
one. This was the performance that did most to convince them
in Australia that I could play golf. I'd come within one stroke
of tying their men's professional champion.
Our Australian friends gave us a wonderful sendoff at
the boat when we finally started home after several months.
We made a side trip to New Zealand, where I gave an ex-
hibition at Aukland, and then sailed on to Honolulu. We had
another stopover there. When we came off the boat, I headed
almost immediately for a golf course, to limber up my golf
muscles. I went around the eighteen holes in sixty-eight
I'd taken off all my extra weight by now, and got my
game sharpened up again. George did some wrestling in
Hawaii, and I played some golf. It was mostly practicing. I
got to play rounds with Harry Cooper and some other pros.
And George and I were on the beach a lot with friends like
Dan Topping. We learned surfboard riding and things like
There was one golf exhibition I had with a Hawaiian boy
and girl who were considered very promising youngsters. I
don't know the name of the boy, and until recently, I'd for-
gotten who the girl was. She was small and lean. She couldn't
have weighed as much as 120 pounds.
Then a little while back Mrs. Jackie Fung joined our
women's professional golf tour, after winning the National
Women's Amateur championship. She said, **Do you remem-
ber me playing against you when you came through Hawaii
back in 1939?" She showed me pictures of herself at that age,
and sure enough, it was the same little girl* I'd never have
recognized her, because Jackie weighed 220 or 230 pounds at
the time she went on our professional circuit.
We got back home to California in the fall of 1989. And
George began to do some heavy thinking about my golf
future. It was something that had worried me, too. Here I'd
been practicing all the time, and developed this fine golf
game, and about al I could do with it was play exhibition
matches. I wasn't getting a chance to show whether I was
the best woman player, because I was barred from practically
all the women's tournaments as a professional
At the time when they'd declared me a professional in
the spring of 1935, there was only one tournament of any im-
portance that I could enter. That was the Western Women's
Open. Then my friend Bertha Bowen, of Fort Worth, helped
get a Texas Women's Open going, which made two.
But two a year isn't enough to give you tournament
sharpness. And those tournaments were match play, which
Tve never thought was as fair a test as medal play. In medal
play, everybody just plays the course, and the one with the
lowest total score wins. In match play, anybody is apt to
get a hot round and knock out anybody else. For several years
there after they made me a pro, I didn't get to win a single
championship in the few tournaments I competed in.
I had to stay professional, because I needed the money*
But when I married George, that problem ended. He was a
top bean in the wrestling business. He was one of the wealthy
wrestlers, like Jimmy Londos and Ed Lewis, and he'd been
making good business investments. George could see that
what I really wanted in golf was to compete and win cham-
pionships. So he set out to see if we could get my amateur
We talked about it to people such as our friend Pardee
Erdman, who'd played with us the day we first met in the
1938 Los Angeles Open. He was a West Coast officer of the
USGA. Darsie L. Darsie, golf writer for the Los Angeles
Herald, was another man who advised us. And there were a
couple more who helped us with information and references.
We found out that I'd have to apply for reinstatement
before I'd been a professional five years. This meant I had
to do it before May of 1940. Then I'd have to go through a
three-year grace period, laying out of all professional things.
That wouldn't be easy, but I was willing to go through with
it. I was ready to do whatever it took to get me eligible for
all those golf tournaments.
I needed four letters of endorsement from people who
were prominent in amateur golf. We were able to get some
fine letters. And my application went off to the USGA in
January of 1940. 1 wrote a long letter to Joe Dey, the executive
secretary of the USGA. I told him I certainly wasn't enjoying
being a professional, and that I'd much rather be competing
for the fun of the game than just playing for money. Which
was true. The money had always come second with me. The
money had been necessary, but what I really loved was the
The USGA agreed to restore my amateur standing if I
went through the three-year waiting period. I settled down to
sweat it out. I dropped all my professional contracts and ap-
pearances, and when I entered the occasional open touma-
ments that I was eligible for, I told them to count me out on
any prize money.
The two big ones for me were still the Western Women's
Open and the Texas Women's Open. I'd missed them both in
1939, because George and I were out of the country, but I
was back in there shooting for those titles in 1940.
The Western Women's Open was held in Milwaukee that
year at the Blue Mound Golf and Country Club. I hadnt
succeeded in getting past the semifinals in this tournament
the three previous times Td tried it
I really had myself a time in that 1940 Western. I even
caused some excitement in a practice round by shooting a
seventy-five, which was women's par at Blue Mound. In the
qualifying round I slipped to an eighty-one, but I was still
only two strokes away from winning the medal
On the first day of match play I was paired against an
Iowa girl, Phyllis Otto, who was only fifteen years old then,
but a real comer. I shot a seventy-eight, the best score of the
day, and beat her by six-and-four. I kept on going from there.
One day I had a seventy-three to set a new Wisconsin women's
record, and then I broke the record in another match with a
seventy-two. I beat Mrs. J. A. Ochilizee, Mrs. F, W. Zimmer-
man and Georgia Tainter to reach the semifinals.
There I met Dorothy Foster of Springfield, Illinois. She'd
eliminated me from this same tournament back in 1937. I
didn't have a very good day against her in the 1940 tourna-
ment, either. We were all even after nine holes. Then I puled
a little ahead. I went two up on her at the fifteenth. On the
sixteenth she made a real bid with a birdie, but I holed out a
ten-footer to score a birdie myself. Another birdie on the
seventeenth gave me the match by three-and-one.
In the finals I was up against Mrs. Russell Mann, the
Wisconsin state champion. This was her home course we were
playing on. But I wanted this title so bad I could taste it. It
was my first chance to win a golf tournament in five years
my last one had been the 1935 Texas state women's champion-
Mrs. Mann kept the pressure on me all the way. It was a
thirty-six hole match, and she was one up at the end of the
morning round. In the afternoon I caught up to her and
slowly pulled away. It was the first nine holes in the after-
noon that did it I shot a thirty-six, I closed out the match
on the thirty-second hole to win by five-and-f our.
It was October before my other big one of the year came
up the Texas Women's Open at Fort Worth. I went to the
finals there against Betty Hicks. I was erratic that day, and
she was playing a very steady game. After twenty-five holes
it looked as though I was going to blow this one. Betty had
me four down. But I made up all those holes by the time we
reached the thirty-second. I got a par to win the final hole and
take the match by one up.
This gave me a 'little slam" of my two major 1940
tournaments. I could hardly wait for my amateur standing
to return, so that I could begin going after all the top cham-
pionships. Meanwhile, with my golf playing cut down so
much, I'd already started in on something else during my
waiting period. I took up tennis. This was a game I'd never
competed in either as an amateur or a pro. I wanted to see
whether I couldn't work my way to the top in one more
The shoulder kink that had stopped me when
I first started to learn tennis in Dallas a year or two after the
1932 Olympics was all straightened out by the time I took up
the game again in California in 1940. Time had taken care of
that shoulder. It was completely well again. Now I could
make the long reach back on the service, and hit all the other
strokes. It was the serving that my shoulder had interfered
with the time before,
George arranged for me to get my tennis lessons from
the finest teacher Eleanor Tennant at the Beverly Hills
Tennis Club. Teach Tennant, they call her. She's taught so
many of the top women players, from Alice Marble to Little
When I go into a sport, I don't do It halfway. I went al
out on my tennis, just the way I had in the past on basketball
and track and golf. I played as many as skteen and seventeen
practice sets in a day. There was hardly a day when I didn't
wear holes In my socks, and I ran the soles off one pair of
tennis shoes after another.
George thought I was going at It too hard. He was run-
ning a custom-tailor shop then in Beverly Hills, just a short
walk from the tennis club. He'd come over half a dozen times
a day to watch me working out. He'd tell me I should take
a little rest, and I'd say, "Rest? I've got another set to play."
Sometimes George got a little angry with me ? and with
Eleanor Tennant. She'd tell him, "If Babe is going to be a top
player, she'll have to practice all the time." And of course I
felt exactly the same way about it. That's always been my own
theory about any sport,
Eleanor Tennant is a lovely player herself. When we
first started I thought she was a great player. I'd watch those
strokes of hers, and think "Oh, if I could only play like that!"
Then I got to where I could beat her, and I realized that if I
didn't get better than that, I wouldn't be able to win any-
thing at all.
I kept improving and improving, I was practicing against
some of the outstanding men pkyers from the inovie colony,
like Paul Lukas and John Garfield and Peter Loire. I played
with some of the leading girls in the game, too. Mary Arnold
was one, and Louise Brough was another. Louise was coming
up in tennis at that time. We played doubles together. Louise
and I talked about entering the national doubles some year
In one practice doubles match we beat Pauline Betz
and Margaret Du Pont. Both of them have won the national
singles championship several times since, and Louise Brough
Finally Eleanor Tennant said, "Babe's ready now to start
getting tournament experience.' 7 So in the fall of 1941 my
entry went in for the Pacific Southwest championships. That's
one of the big ones. It's the last major tournament of the
year on the American tennis circuit.
Well, my entry was turned down. It was that old issue of
professionalism again. It hadn't occurred to me that the ques-
tion would come up at all in tennis, since Yd never even played
the game. But it seems that once youVe "been a professional
athlete in any sport, the tennis people consider you a pro*
And there was no way I ever could qualify as an amateur. In
tennis, it's "once a pro, always a pro. J>
Once I knew that I could never compete in tournaments,
that took the fun out of tennis for me. If s not enough for me
just to play a game. I have to be able to try for championships.
So I quit tennis cold. I still have my rackets, but I haven't
touched one from that day to this.
Another sport I took up during those years when I was
sweating out my golf amateurism was bowling. I first got
interested in it a short time before the tennis stopped. George
was thinking about buying a bowling alley. He went around
looking over different alleys, and I went with him. We must
have looked at dozens of bowling places.
We never did buy an alley, but naturally it wasn't long be-
fore I decided to take a whack at this game myself. The first
night I tried it, I told George that it was a new game for me.
And It was, as far as ever getting to learn it is concerned. I
hadn't had a bowling ball in my Band more than two or three
times in my life.
After I rolled a few, George said, "Coine on, now. Don't
give me that stuff about not knowing how to bowl You're
throwing that ball down there like a professional."
I began to put in a lot of long nights at the bowling alleys
with George. He was a little afraid at first that the game might
be bad for my golf. He thought bowling might overstrengthen
my right hand and cause me to hook my shots. But I was sure
it wouldn't give me that kind of trouble, and it didn't.
I got instruction from different people. Jo Pittenger at
the LIo-Da-Mar alleys was one of them. I started off throwing
a straight powerhouse ball, but I saw that the best players
rolled a hook ball and were spot bowlers. So I converted to
that style myself.
In bowling I could get the competition I wanted. It
didn't matter here whether I was an amateur or professional
athlete. I bowled for teams in different leagues there in Los
Angeles. I was on the King's Jewelry team in the Southern
California Major League. I was their "anchor woman."
One night the five of us set a record with a combined
score of 2765 for a block of three games. I had the highest
single-game score with 237. Another night I bowled three
straight games that were well up in the 200's. My three-game
total was over 700. My game average there in the Southern
California Major League was over 170.
George and I met a lot of the people in bowling. At one
time or another I bowled with just about all the top men
stars Andy Varipappa, Joe Wilman, Hank Marino. And
Harold Lloyd, the big Hollywood comedy star of the silent-
movie days, was an avid bowler. We got to know him well.
Of course, I was playing some golf right along too. I
wasn't going to let myself get rusty at my favorite sport. There
was an occasional tournament I could enter. In March of
1941, for instance, they had a women's open at San Francisco.
I won that, and I had to get by some good golfers to do it
girls like Marion Hollins and Dorothy Traung. In the finals I
edged out Barbara Beach Thompson by three-and-two.
When there was no golf tournament for me to play in
which was most of the time I made a point of getting in a
good three or four practice rounds a week. One day every-
thing was clicking for me and I shot a sixty-four at the Brent-
wood Country Club. That was the best score that had ever
been turned in there by either a man or a woman.
Another time I was paired with Sam Snead in a pro-lady
tournament at Laglewood. It was an alternate-shot tourna-
ment. That means that on one hole he'd hit the drive, then I'd
play the second shot, and he'd hit the third. You'd keep taking
turns like that until the ball was in the cup. Then on the next
hole I'd have to make the tee shot, and Sam the second, and
In some of those pro-lady tournaments you'd play a
modified form of alternate shots. You'd have a selective drive.
Both of you would hit tee shots, and you could choose the one
you wanted, and then start your alternating.
But in this tournament at Inglewood that I'm talking
about, it was straight alternate shots all the way. And Sam
and I got around the course in sixty-eight strokes, I believe
that's still the record score for pro-lady alternate shots.
It was a thrill for me to set that record with Sam Snead.
It was a thrill just to play alongside him, because he is the
most wonderful-looking golfer that I have ever seen. I was
really awed watching that swing of his so intricate and yet
so smooth. He's got the most beautiful pivot and the most
natural golf swing in the game.
His swing is just perfect. If Sam Snead had the thinking
head that Ben Hogan has, then nobody would ever touch,
him. But little things seem to affect Sam. IVe seen him falter
in spots where there was no real reason for it just some idea
that got into his head.
Take his putting. A lot has been written about Sam Snead
being shaky on putts. Actually Sam is a fine putter. What a
lot of the golf fans and newspaper men don't take into ac-
count is that Sam hits that ball to the pin so often, he's
putting for birdies all the time. And you just can't make all
But Sam has this reputation for blowing putts, and
sometimes when he's in a position where he only needs to
sink a little two-footer, it seems like he gets to worrying about
it. And then he does blow the putt.
He's missed winning the National Open so many times
that I'm afraid he never will do it. It's in his mind that the
Open is his jinx tournament. I hope he does come through
one of these years. I know that people in golf will be tickled
to death if Sam Snead finally wins a National Open. He's
won everything else.
I gave up all paid appearances during my waiting period,
but I played some benefit exhibitions, especially for war
charities after the United States got into World War II.
George kept trying to enlist. He wanted to teach the boys
unarmed defense those wrestling holds of his, you know. BE
he got in, I planned to take a commission in the Wacs. But
one branch of the military services after another turned
George down because of varicose veins.
George had switched over to the promotional end of
wrestling by this time. He was staging matches at the Olympic
Auditorium in Los Angeles. I'd kept after him to quit the ring.
1 never could stand to watch George wrestle. It looked so
rough, and the crowds would get so wild.
I appeared in a number of wartime exhibition golf
matches with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope. Bing was the best
player of aH the Hollywood actors, but Bob was coming right
along. I wouldn't know which is the best today. It was a
scream, playing with those two. Bob is funnier than Bing,
because Bing is a little more conservative and a little more
concerned with his golf. But there wasn't a minute Bob Hope
was on the golf course that he wasn't clowning. The people
really enjoyed it.
I made a good stooge for Bob every now and then myself.
Bob would say, "There's only one thing wrong about Babe
and myself. I hit the ball like a girl and she hits it like a man.**
I remember one match where I teamed up with Patty
Berg against Bing and Bob at the San Gabriel Country Club.
Patty and I beat them > although nobody out there was too
much concerned about the score.
I smacked one about 280 yards off the first tee. Bob Hope
dropped to the ground and began beating on it with his hands,
pretending to cry and wail.
Bing put on an act of consoling Bob, then Bing took his
drive. It was a good bit shorter than mine. So Bob started
On one of the holes, my second shot bounced into a
bunch of people standing near the green. The ball hit a
woman's hand. They tell me it knocked a diamond out of the
ring on her finger. Anyway, it bounced right back on the
green as nice as anything, and rolled up to the pin to give me
an easy birdie three.
Bob Hope turned to the gallery. "Now do you see what
we're up against?" he said.
At the halfway point the announcer began reciting,
"Scores for the first nine holes. Miss Berg, thirty-seven. Mrs.
Zaharias, thirty-five. Mr. Crosby, thirty-eight. Mr, Hope J*
Before he could get any farther Bob burst out singing, "I
dream of Jeanie with the light brown hair/'
Bob Hope made a big production out of lining up one
eight-inch putt and sinking it. On another hole he had an
eight-foot putt. He missed it, took a second putt, and didn't
quite make it that time either.
This is still the same man putting," he said before he
took his third try.
The match closed with the announcer reading off the
final scores. And again, before he could get Bob Hope's score
out, Bob was back in there singing, "I dream of Jeanie with
the light brown hair."
I played benefits for the different armed-service charities
with other Hollywood celebrities who were pretty good
golfers, like Mickey Rooney and Johnny Weismuller. I also
appeared with some of the biggest men's golf stars. Byron
Nelson was one. He was on the top of the heap during most
of those war years. And Ben Hogan was on his way to the top,
although he was off in the Navy part of the time. I think I
played with Ben about three times on the West Coast, and
once in Chicago.
My idea still was that the more I got to play with the
men, the better it would be for my golf game, My husband
George thought so too. Occasionally George and I would
enter something like a pro-amateur-lady tournament together.
I remember one we were in that was held at the Recreation
Park course in Long Beach.
Those tournaments were a little complicated. Three of
you played together- a man pro ? a woman, and a man
amateur. It was best-ball scoring. And the same person could
enter in more than one threesome.
In that Long Beach tournament, I was entered in two
different combinations. In both of them* BiH Nary was the
pro and I was the lady. In one of them George was the
amateur, In the other the amateur was a fellow named Oscar
It was a thirty-six-hole tournament. Well, I wound up
both in first place and in second place. Our "team" with Oscar
Olson finished first with a best-ball score of 120* The one with
George tied for second with 122.
All the time I was doing this sports stuff out there on the
West Coast, I was also enjoying being Mrs. George Zaharias.
That's what IVe been ever since we were married, whether
I was keeping house or playing in a golf tournament IVe
always competed as Mrs. Zaharias, not Babe Didrikson.
George and I are a team.
George has done so much to boost my career along. He's
been a good judge of what things would help to build my
reputation, and what things wouldn't I lean a lot on his ad-
vice. And I listen to him about my golf playing, too. George
has studied golf a lot, and not so much to improve his own
game as to be able to help me with my game. And he does
know my game today probably better than anyone.
I had a great time fixing up our first real home in West
Los Angeles when we settled down there after our trip to
Australia. It was a nice little duplex with a yard. I loved the
cooking and the housekeeping and the sewing. We bought a
sewing machine I'd always wanted one of my own. I made
my own drapes and bedspreads and things* And I had a great
time fixing up the yard. I cut the grass myself, and I planted
flowers. I put in rose bushes. Every house weVe lived in, I've
gone in for those rose bushes.
On January 21, 1943, my amateur standing came back in
golf. I don't think I've ever been happier in my life. Of course,
most of the big tournaments had been suspended for the dura-
tion of the war. But from now on, I was eligible to enter all
the tournaments there were.
My first appearance as an amateur was in a special thirty-
six-hole charity match they arranged the next month between
me and the California state women's champion, Clara Cal~
lender. It was held at the Desert Golf Club in Palm Springs.
I couldn't have asked for a better start. Clara scored a pair of
seventy-twos, which is real fine shooting. But I had a seventy
in the morning round and a sixty-seven in the afternoon,
which broke the course record. I took the match by a margin
of f our-and-two.
A week or so later both of us entered the midwinter
women's golf championship at the Los Angeles Country Club,
and we wound up opposing each other again for the title.
Neither of us had any trouble on our way to the finals. I shot
a seventy-nine in the qualifying round, and then improved on
that score every day. I hit women's par of seventy-seven in
winning my first match. I had a seventy-four the next day,
and then a seventy-three in the semifinals the day after that.
This tournament was at the Los Angeles Country Club's
north course, which is longer and harder than the course
where Clara Calender and I had played our first match.
Clara and I didn't get the kind of scores this time that we'd
had at Palm Springs, but we didn't do too bad either.
I had a seventy-six for the first eighteen holes. That was
three strokes better than her, although I was only one up at
the end of the round. The thing I remember best is that I shot
a double-eagle on the tenth hole, where women's par was
five. The hole was 405 yards, and it ran uphill, I had a tee
shot of more than 250 yards. I used a six-iron on my second,
and darned if that ball didn't drop on the green and trickle
right into the cup,
Clara Calender had gone one hole ahead of me before
that She never held the lead again, although she hung in
there. During the afternoon round she took only one hole,
the next-to-last one, but most of the time she was getting
halves. My final margin was four-and-three.
Then there were some other women's tournaments they
put on in Southern California, and I was able to win just about
all of them. In between I kept drilling and drilling on my
game, to be ready whenever the regular golf circuit was able
to resume again.
At this time I was doing a lot of my practicing as a guest
out at the Hilcrest Country Club, which happens to have a
Jewish membership. Now that sort of thing means absolutely
nothing to me. Tve never been able to understand why some
people attach importance to what religion the other fellow
belongs to. In the sports world you learn right off, if you didn't
already know it, that once the competition starts, your creed
can't help you or hurt you. It's what you are and what you do
The only reason I mention it at all is that I want to tell a
little story. Out there at Hillcrest one day, the president of
the club came up to me. He was a real nice fellow. I got to
know him well. Anyhow* he was shaking his head and pre-
tending to look severe.
"I don't know what we're going to do about you/* he
said. "You're out here almost every day. Guess we'll have to
declare you an honorary member of our faith and have you
join the club."
At Hillcrest I played golf a couple of times with Joe
Louis, who was in his prime then as heavyweight boxing
champion of the world. He was a fine gentleman and a good
sport the kind of fellow you enjoy playing golf with. He
was a pretty fair golfer, too. He was capable of shooting
in the middle seventies, and maybe better than that some-
times, if he had his game going good.
A number of people who are famous for other things
might have been championship golfers if they'd made golf
their business. I played with General Omar Bradley once after
the war at the Indian Creek course in Miami Beach. We were
both shooting from the back tees and everything, and he
turned in a seventy-five.
During the war years, a civilian couldn't do much travel-
ing around. In 1944 I did get out to the Western Women's
Open, which was about the most important of the tourna-
ments that kept going through the war. I'd won it as a pro in
1940, and now I won it as an amateur. I took the trophy with
a seven-and-five victory over Dorothy Germain she's Mrs.
Mark Porter now.
In June of 1945 I came back to defend my Western
Women's Open title at Indianapolis. I was hitting the ball
good. I'd Just finished winning a match when I got a phone
call from George in Denver. At this time he was switching
Ms wrestling promotions over from Los Angeles to Denver.
We were in the process of moving to Denver.
George had bad news. He told me that my sister Esther
Nancy had just called from California to say that my mother
had been rushed to the hospital She already was suffering
from diabetes, and now she'd had a sudden heart attack. She
was in real bad shape. They were afraid she might not pull
It just broke me up when I got the word in
Indianapolis during the 1945 Western Women's Open that
my mother was critically ill in the hospital. I'd always been so
close to Momma. After that bad news, I didn't feel like play-
ing golf any more. I told George on the phone that I'd come
right back, but he said, "Your Momma wants you to finish the
I phoned my sister Nancy, who was with her, and she told
me the same thing. I'd have gone back anyway, but with the
wartime travel priorities still on, I couldn't get a seat on any
plane or train out of Indianapolis. So I went through with my
quarterfinal match the next day. I sure didn't have my heart
in it, but somehow I played well enough to win.
That night Nancy called and told me that Momma had
died. I said, "IVe got to get back/ 7 Nancy said, "You go ahead
and win that tournament. That's the way Momma would want
Again I tried to get transportation out of there, and again
I failed. By now there must have been a half a dozen big
shots there in Indianapolis who were trying to get me on a
plane for the West Coast, and they couldn't do it. Even with
my personal emergency, I didn't rate a high enough priority.
So I played in the semifinals against Mrs. Marge Becker.
A lot of times I'd have to step away and wipe my eyes before
I could putt. What kept me going was that I felt I was playing
for Momma now. It was an eighteen-hole match, and for
a while it seesawed back and forth. After twelve holes we were
aU even. Then I took the next four holes to come out ahead
When I went out for the finals the next day against
Dorothy Germain, the same girl I'd beaten in the deciding
match of this tournament the year before, I was really in-
spired. I set a new women's record for the course* it was the
Highland Park Golf and Country Club with a seventy-two
in the morning round. That put me five up. Dorothy staged a
good rally in the afternoon and cut into my lead some. I won
the match, though, four-and-two.
It wasn't until five o'clock the next morning that I finally
was notified that they had a seat on a plane for me. I went
as far as Kansas City, and then I was *l>umped" off the plane
by someone with a higher priority, I sat around the airport
for hours, waiting for some plane space to open up. I'd doze
off for a while, and then come to with a start. Td rush up to
the ticket counter, thinking they'd forgotten I was there. But
they hadn't forgotten. They just didn't have anything for
At last I did get on a plane. This time I made it to
Albuquerque, New Mexico, before I was bumped again.
There was another long layover there. I even tried chartering
a plane, but it wasn't possible they didn't have the gasoline
for that. George was working on the phone from Denver, try-
ing to help me through contacts of his. He wasn't having any
Then a seat opened up on a flight that took me to Phoenix,
Arizona. After one last wait, I went on through to Los Angeles.
They'd held off the funeral as long as they possibly could,
and I just did arrive in time. It happened to be my birthday,
June twenty-sixth. The rest of the family was already there.
They met me at the airport in Los Angeles, and took me
to the chapel where Momma was laid out.
Poppa had died of a heart attack about two years before.
I remember that the rest of us were crying and everything,
but I noticed that Momma wasn't. I couldn't understand it, as
much as she and Poppa had meant to each other for so many
years. I said, "Momma, why aren't you crying?" She said,
"Babe, if I cried, then you children would start fussing over
me. I want you to cry for Poppa.**
Well, I never could cry too easy when I was a kid, but
when I saw Momma there that day in 1945, I really broke
down. The others just left me alone in the chapel to cry it
That fall I won my second Texas Women's Open title,
beating Mrs. Albert Becker, seven-and-six, and at the end of
1945 a nice thing happened. I was picked as the "Woman
Athlete of the Year" in the annual Associated Press poll. I'd
won it back in my Olympic year of 1932, but this was the first
time I'd been picked since then. During all those years in
between, what with my troubles over professionalism and
everything, I hadn't been able to compete enough to establish
whether I was the No. 1 woman athlete.
IVe taken that AP award a total of six times by now, and
in 1950, when they had a special fifty-year poll, I was selected
the Woman Athlete of the Half Century. Every time it's been
a thrill, but I got a special charge out of that 1945 award,
because it had been so many years since I'd had this recogni-
The citation covered a couple of my 1945 doings that I
haven't mentioned. It said: "Although Mrs. Zaharias first won
fame as a track star and later competed in most sports as an
amateur and professional, she now concentrates on golf. It
was in that field that she was outstanding during the '45 cam-
"In addition to defeating Betty Jameson in a seventy-two-
hole challenge match at Los Angeles and San Antonio, Mrs.
Zaharias became the first woman to capture three Western
Open golf titles. Although she was upset by Phyllis Otto in
the Western Amateur, she bounced back to cop the Texas
In 1946 all the golf tournaments started up again. There
was a whole string of them during the summer, ending with
the National Women's Amateur the last week in September.
That was the biggest one. The National Women's Open was
just getting started. It hadn't become the top tournament that
it is today, now that the United States Golf Association spon-
sors it as well as the men's National Open.
I'd never played in the National Women's Amateur, first
because of being declared a pro and later because the tourna-
ment was suspended during the war. Here my goal for years
and years had been the national championship, and I'd never
even had a chance to try for it.
I started a little slow there in 1946. In June I got edged
out of the Western Women's Amateur in the semifinals by a
girl named Mary McMillin. That was the last losing I was
going to do for a long time.
My next tournament was the Trans-Mississippi, which
was held in Denver that year. I went all the way this time,
beating Polly Riley in the finals, six-and-five. Soon after I
went over to Colorado Springs and won the Broadmoor In-
vitation Match Hay tournament. My final opponent was
Dorothy Kielty, and the score was six-and-four.
The last appearance I made before the 1946 National
Women's Amateur was in George S. May's "All- American
Championship" at the Tarn o' Shanter Country Club in Niles,
Illinois. Later on George added a "World Championship" for
both men and women to his "All-American" tournaments.
That Tarn o' Shanter competition was a happy hunting ground
for me for many years, starting back there in 1946, when I
won the women's branch of the All-American. It's a medal-
play tournament. I had a four-round total of 310 strokes. I've
improved on that score considerably in later tournaments
So I came into my first National Women's Amateur with
a winning streak of three straight tournaments. The scene of
the National that year was the Southern Hills Country Club
in Tulsa, Oklahoma, It was a long course a good tee-shot
course. I always like that kind.
I was pointing for this tournament, all right. You could
say I'd been pointing for it more than thirteen years, from
the time I first took up golf seriously. It would be a terrible
thing to go through an entire golf career without ever winning
the National. And that's happened to some fine players, such
as Maureen Orcutt It's so easy for upsets to happen in a
match-play tournament like that. Almost always there are
unknowns who catch fire and put out some of the favorites.
Although I didn't know it, 1946 was going to be my one
and only chance to take the National Women's Amateur
championship. Well, my performance that week was every-
thing I could have hoped for. There was a thirty-six-hole
qualifying round, in which I placed third, and my game
just built up from there. I didn't have a single narrow squeak
in working my way to the finals, although I had to get past
some tough competitors, including Peggy Kirk and Maureen
Orcutt and Helen Sigel.
On the last day I was opposed by the girl Yd had those
two close matches with in California right after my amateur
standing came back in 1943. She was Clara Calender then;
now she was Mrs. Sherman.
This time it wasn't close. I was hot. She wasn't We were
even through the first six holes. After that I was ahead all
the way. At lunch time I was five up. It only took nine more
holes in the afternoon to finish things. I won the eighth with
an eagle my 130-yard second shot went in the cup for a
two. I took the ninth with a par to end the match. My win-
ning margin of eleven-and-nine was the second biggest in
the history of the tournament.
What gave me the most satisfaction, next to winning my
first national championship, was that I hadn't played any bad
golf at all that week. I don't really enjoy a tournament, even
if I win, unless I play well. Sometimes you hit a ball, and you
don't hit it the way you wanted to, but It goes on the green
anyhow. You were lucky. I don't like it that way. I'm never
really satisfied unless I can feel that I'm hitting the ball just
After the National, I won the Texas Women's Open in
October, beating Betty Hicks in the final, five-and-three,
Then I went home to stay a while. We were all settled in Den-
ver now. George had his wrestling matches going good there,
and he was staging some boxing shows too. When we first
moved to Denver we lived in a hotel, but now we'd bought a
home the first full-fledged house we'd ever owned. I put in
the prettiest rose garden IVe had. This was a beautiful old
English house. Td said when we got it, "This is it. I'll never
want to move out of this house/'
When I caine back there at the end of the tournament
season in October, I was ready to take a long layoff from golf
competition and just enjoy my home for a while. But George
had other ideas. He said, "Honey, you've got something going
here. You've won five straight tournaments. You want to build
that streak up into a record they'll never forget. There are
some women's tournaments in Florida at the start of the win-
ter. I think you should go down there/'
George said he'd come with me to Florida, and then at
the last minute he couldn't, what with his promotions in
Denver. So he just went with me as far as Pueblo. We spent
the night there with his mother and dad. The next day he went
to Denver, and I took off in the car toward Florida.
I must have gone about 150 miles, and then I turned
around and drove straight back home to Denver. George was
in the house. He said, "What are you doing here?"
I said, "The farther I got down the road, the more lone-
some I got. I'm not going to go/*
But I finally did hit the Florida tournaments near the end
of January, and later on George was able to join me for some
of the tour. He always has traveled the circuit with me as
much as he possibly could. Believe me, it helps to have him
right there pulling for me, and it's nice to be able to talk with
him after the day's play is over.
George is a combination coach and trainer when he's
with me at a golf tournament. He knows better -than to over-
advise you. He doesn't keep harping on little details. If he
notices some tiny flaw, but it's not really hurting my play,
then he won't even mention it while the tournament is on.
And he can give the best nibdowns. He knows just how to
work the soreness out of an athlete's muscles.
On that 1947 Florida trip I was playing a tournament
a week. I started with the Tampa Women's Open. It was four
rounds of medal play, and at the end of three rounds I was
only one stroke ahead of Louise Suggs. Then on the fourth
day I shot two under women's par to finish on top by five
The next one was a match-play tournament at the Miami
Country Club the Helen Lee Doherty Women's Amateur. I
was two strokes under men's par for the entire week. In the
qualifying round I had a sixty-eight, which was eight below
women's par, four below men's par and only one stroke above
the men's record for the course. Jean Hopkins and Mary Agnes
Wall gave me close matches along the way, but I won the final
against Margaret Gunther by twelve-and-ten.
The week after that I went to Orlando and won the
Florida Mixed Two-Ball Championship in partnership with
Gerald Walker, the big-league ballplayer. Gee Walker, they
call him. We beat Poly Riley and Joe Ezar in the finals. The
match ended on the thirty-first hole.
Now my winning streak was up to eight straight tourna-
ments. I believe that was already a record in major golf
competition. I still wasn't taking it all as seriously as George
was, though. Talking to him in Denver by telephone after
that Orlando tournament, I told him, 'Tm tired of traveling
around down here by myself. Tm ready to come home."
"No, honey /' he said. "Don't do that. You're in a hot
streak. Stay with it." And he talked me into sticking it out by
myself for another week or two. He said that he'd be able
to break away from Denver by then and join me in Florida.
And he did get down a couple of weeks later.
So I moved on to the Palm Beach Women's Amateur, and
just barely kept my string unbroken in the finals against Jean
Hopkins. She had me two down with three holes to play.
Then I managed to take every one of those last three holes
and finish one up on her.
There was quite a rhubarb over the wind-up to the next
tournament., the Women's International Four-Ball at Holly-
wood, Florida. It was Peggy Kirk and I against Louise Suggs
and Jean Hopkins, and after thirty-five holes we were all
square. It was almost dark. There was some discussion about
whether we should try to play any more, but finally they had
us drive off the last tee.
We never did play out the hole. Everybody drove, but
only a couple of us took our second shots. There was a question
of whether someone in the gallery had picked up one of those
second shots, or thrown it on the green, or what not. Part of
the gallery was hollering that the match should be stopped,
and others were hollering for us to play It out. Finally they
did call off the match.
The next day we had an eighteen-hole playoff, and with
Peggy Kirk shooting some fine golf for our side, we won by
That was victory No. 10. 1 won't bother going into details
on every tournament in my streak. No. 11 was the South
Atlantic Women's Championship at Ormond Beach I beat
Peggy Kirk, five-and-f our. No. 12 was the Florida East Coast
Women's Championship at St. Augustine, where I scored
over Mary Agnes Wall in the finals, two-and-one.
There was a short layoff before No. 13 the Women's
Titleholders Tournament at Augusta, Georgia. That's the little
sister to the Masters Tournament. It was the first time I'd
played in it. After two rounds of medal play Dorothy Kirby
was ten strokes ahead, but at the end, I was on top by five
strokes with 304. 1 pulled the tournament out with a seventy-
one the third day and a seventy-four the last day.
The Titleholders is a wonderful tournament It's golf
as golf should be played. The ball is never touched. On the
winter tour a lot of courses aren't in the best of shape, and
you're allowed to move the ball out of bad spots on the fair-
way, and things like that. But I know the galleries don't al-
ways understand this. It makes a better impression when you
just play the ball as it lies. That's the way the Titleholders is
run, in good weather or bad.
For No. 14 1 went up to Pinehurst, North Carolina, in the
middle of April for the North and South Women's Amateur. I
got to the finals against Louise Suggs, who is a very fine golfer
and doesn't make many mistakes. She's extra tough on a short
course like Pinehnrst. I believe she was shooting the finest
golf of her career around that period.
Going into the last hole, I was one up on her. I pushed
my tee sliot over to the right of the green in front of a tree.
The ball was so close to the tree that if I tried to chop it out,
I was going to hit the tree trunk on my backswing, and prob-
ably mess up my shot. So I tried a pool type of shot. I turned
around and hit the ball against the tree. I was going to bounce
it back as far as I could. Maybe Yd get lucky and bounce it
on the green.
But I didn't get lucky. The ball hit a wrong angle on the
tree and kicked over to the right. I went over there kind of
upset and mad at myself, and reached down too fast to pick
some pine straws out of the way. I moved my ball, which cost
me another stroke. I wound up with a five, while Louise came
out of a bunker to get down in four and square the match.
Well, that almost killed me, and George, who was there
watching, was just going crazy. He told me after, "I thought
for sure you were going to lose one and break that string/'
But I knocked in a good putt on the first extra hole for a half,
and then on the second extra hole I knocked in a real good
putt for a birdie to win.
After that tournament I was really ready to go home and
see my flowers and work around the house and garden. It was
a month before I played again in the Celebrities Tourna-
ment in Washington, where I won the women's division for
In the meantime, George has been doing some more of
his thinking about my future. "Honey /* he says, "you want
to go over to Scotland and play in the British Women's
Amateur in June. You need something like that to top off
your streak, the way Bobby Jones went over and played those
British tournaments the year he made his grand slam/*
I said, "I won't go unless you go with me/'
He said, "Sure, honey, Til go with you. Ill make it if I
I said, "I know you. You're giving me some more of that
old con. You won't go. You'll never be able to get away for
George kept coining back to the subject as the days went
on. At one point we ran into Tommy Armour, one of the real
great golfers, and George got Tommy to talk to me about
Tommy Armour is another of the men who helped me to
build my golf game. When I was first under contract with
Goldsmith, I was hitting the baU long but my accuracy wasn't
too good. They arranged for me to take a course of lessons
from Tommy Armour. I think it was in 1937. I went to the
Medinah Country Club in Illinois, where he was the pro.
The Medinah Open was on. I was all dressed up, wear-
ing my girdle and everything. I had on kind of a tight skirt
and blouse. There were little wooden buttons all down the
front of the blouse. I was in stockings and high-heeled shoes.
I was anxious to meet Tommy Armour. The great names
of golf fascinated me, and of course I aspired to be one of
them myself. I went down to where he was and introduced
myself. He was at the practice tee giving a lesson sitting
down, as he usually does.
He said, "Mildred, let me see you hit a ball/* He never
would call me Babe. He's always called me Mildred.
I said I didn't think I could swing a club, dressed up the
way I was, but he told me to go ahead and try one. Well,
there was a cyclone fence about 200 yards from the practice
tee. I drew back and hit the ball clear over it. I busted most
of the buttons on my blouse while I was doing it.
He said, "Well, if s true. They said you could hit a ball
pretty far. There aren't many people who carry the ball over
He told me to hit a few more, so I took off my high-heeled
shoes and started banging away in my stocking feet. Tommy
Armour gave up all his other lessons for a while and just
worked with me every day. I think it was two-and-a-half or
three months that I worked with him there. He helped me a
lot, especially on my iron play. He was noted for being a great
iron player. And I've always thought a lot of Tommy Armour.
So here it is 1947, and George and I are talking to Tommy,
George says to him, "Do you think Babe should go to Scot-
land for the British Women's Amateur this year?**
Tommy is an old Scotsman himself. He turns to me.
"Mildred," he says, "you go!"
That was one of the things that finally decided me.
George wasn't able to make the trip with me, but I went
anyhow. I was to find that nothing I'd done in golf in the past
was anything like playing this tournament. I've never had
such an experience I
There was never any event that was more im-
portant for me in sports than the British Women's Amateur
golf championship in 1947. I'd already set a record with my
string of fifteen straight tournament victories, which had
brought me quite a lot of publicity. But that British tourna-
ment was to land me on more front pages than the other
fifteen put together.
Going over and adding those British championships to
their American ones is what has nailed down the reputations
of practically all our famous golfers, from Walter Hagen and
Bobby Jones and Gene Sarazen to Sam Snead and Ben Hogan.
I was trying to do the same thing to show that I could beat
the best on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. There was one
difference about my attempt. A number of our players had
won the important British men's tournaments. But no Ameri-
can girl had ever taken the British Women's Amateur from
the time it first started in 1893.
My promoter-husband George saw the value of all this,
but for a while I couldn't get very excited about it. When we
were talking the idea over with Tommy Armour, one of the
things I said was, "How do I know whether this tournament
will be worth that long trip? Who all's going to be playing
in it, anyhow?"
I can't give you Tommy's exact words, but they came to
this. "It doesn't matter who's in the tournament. You go. This
is the one you must win."
I traveled by myself, since George was tied down by
business back home in Denver. I had a smooth crossing over
to Southampton, England. After that the trip got a little
rough. Things were still tough there in the British Isles that
soon after the war.
I came off the boat in Southampton on a real hot, humid
day. They said it was the worst heat for that date in sixty-two
years, or some such thing. I got on the morning boat train for
London, and it was jammed. I was all laden down with things.
I had two cameras with me, and my knitting bag, and different
pieces of luggage. I was even carrying my fur coat. I had on a
suit that turned out to be too warm for the weather that day.
And I couldn't get a seat on the boat train. I had to stand all
the way from Southampton to London.
At the station in London I rushed out to get a taxicab, I
had to get to another depot, the King's Cross Station, and
catch a train for Edinburgh in Scotland. There were a lot of
people out at the taxi place, too. I asked for a cab, and I was
told, "Lady, you'll have to wait in queue."
I said, "Queue? What's queue?" And they explained that
meant standing in line until my turn came.
About twenty-five cabs later, my turn did come. And
three other people jumped into the cab with me. There wasn't
even room for me to get all my luggage in. Finally it was
arranged that a couple of the people would have to get out
and wait for the next cab.
My train for Edinburgh was due to leave a little after
one o'clock, as I remember it I didn't get to King's Cross
Station very long ahead of that. On my train trip up from
Southampton, I'd just said, "I want a ticket to London." This
time I wanted to make sure I got a first-class ticket, so as to
have a comfortable seat for the rest of my trip.
I was hurrying in to buy my ticket, and all of a sudden
the gates to the station closed on me. I said to a man, "What
in the world is this? Why are they closing the gates?''
He said, "The King and Queen are coming." It seems that
when that happens, they close off the whole front of the
station. The King and Queen arrived in a party of four or five
cars, and this long red carpet was rolled out for them to walk
into the station. There were bouquets of flowers all around it.
So the King and Queen went into the station, and of
course I was thrilled at getting a chance to see them. Then
the gates began to open up again, and I started running up
that carpet where the King and Queen had gone. I was half-
way up, and a man stopped me and said, "Lady, you cannot
walk on that carpet. You cannot go that way/'
I said, "I'm sorry, but I have to get my ticket. I have to
catch that train to Edinburgh."
He said, "You must go over to the annex when the King
and Queen are here. Nobody is allowed in the station."
I got my ticket at last, and just did make my train. It
was loaded with civilians and some men in uniform, the way
the boat train had been. And I had to stand on this one too.
The first-class compartments were all filled. I asked the con-
ductor, "Doesn't a first-class ticket mean that I get a seat?"
He said, "No, madam. First come first served/'
So I stood in the aisle with all my gear. It was hotter than
ever. The windows were open we'd have suffocated other-
wise and soot from the engine was blowing in. There were
black specks all over my face and hair. I was dripping all
over. My curls had come down. I never did get my hair to
stay up right the whole time I was in England and Scotland.
I thought I was going to faint any minute. It was about
a nine or ten-hour trip. Whenever anybody left their seat for
a few minutes, Td go sit there until they came back.
After we'd been riding for quite a while they announced
the first call for tea. I made a-beeline in there and got to sit
down. I was going to stay there and order again at the second
call, and the third call too. But they told me I couldn't do
that. They said you could only sit through one serving. Then
you had to leave to give other people a turn.
We finally got to Edinburgh some time after eleven
o'clock at night. From then on things couldn't have been
nicer. A car was waiting at the station to take me to Gullane,
the little town where the tournament was being held.
"Well, thank God!" I said to the driver. Tm certainly
glad to see you/' I made myself comfortable in the back seat,
and asked him, "How far have we got to go?"
He told me it was a thirty-five or forty minute drive.
I said, "Good." Then I stretched back and went right to
sleep, I slept all the way to Gullane.
The car took me to the North Berwick Inn, where I had
a reservation. I just loved that little old hotel. They were so
hospitable. There was this little guy who was a sort of com-
bination desk clerk and bell boy and everything else. He said
he was tickled to meet me, because he'd read a lot about me
and was a great fan of mine. And the manager did everything
he could to make me comfortable and help me succeed. The
food rationing was very tight then, but he'd laid in a supply
of special things for me. He'd said, "We want her to have
the things she's used to eating/*
I went down my first morning and the waiter asked me
what I'd like,
I said, "Well, I'd like some bacon or ham and eggs and
some fried potatoes and toast and coffee. But I don't suppose
I can get that here/'
He said, "Mrs. Zaharias, we've got all that. The manager
is keeping some chickens out there just for you. And he went
to an American boat and got bacon and ham for your whole
I told him, "That's as nice a thing as I ever heard of." I
did feel sort of guilty, though, about taking all this special
I got over there a few days before the tournament so I
could do some practicing. The Gullane golf course was down
a quaint little street from the hotel. Everybody rode bicycles
around there. They wore those clips on their pants legs. At
first 1 thought I'd get me a bicycle to go to the golf club and
back, but then I decided I'd rather walk. I liked to look at
the houses with the little stone fences around them, and see
the men and the girls and the boys on their bicycles.
I said hello to all of them. They'd say, "Hello, Mrs.
Zaharias." I told the newspaper reporters, "I wish you'd ask
everybody just to call me Babe." And a number of the people
started doing that.
When I walked back to the hotel in the evening, about
ten or fifteen women would come out of houses along those
four or five blocks and say, "Would you like tea with us?"
And several times I said, "Thank you," and went in. Of course,
sometimes I couldn't, because I had reporters and photog-
raphers waiting for me back at the hotel, and things like
One night they had me pose wearing a pair of Stuart
Clan kilts. I thought it might be a nice gesture for me to wear
those kilts when I played the finals, if I got that far. But I
found the kilts were so big and heavy that I just couldn't have
played golf in them.
This Gullane was a seaside course. People kept warning
me to stay out of "the winds," and I thought they meant the
sea breezes. But it turned out that "the winds" were a hedge-
like kind of rough. I'm thankful that I never did get in that
stuff during the tournament., because it was really mean all
thick and jumbled together.
Gullane was a lot different from our American tourna-
ment courses. There were sheep wandering all over the place.
The sheep were used to golfers, though. When I came along
in a practice round, the sheep would just step aside into a
bunker or into the rough.
The sheep were on the greens a lot. The club was giving
me extra courtesies, and when I practiced, they had a fellow
in a white coat go along in front of me and clean off the
greens where the sheep had been. I believe the average golfer
just had to take care of that the best he could.
These courses over there are considered the property of
the Scottish people. There was no golf on Sunday, so the
people could go out there for picnics and stuff. And you'd see
f amiiies just taking a stroll on the golf course, or giving their
dogs a walk. The dogs would always be on leashes. I never
saw a dog in Scotland that wasn't on a leash.
During the war they'd put up tank traps all over the
coast for protection in case of invasion. They were big pillars
of cement, five feet thick and eight feet long, stuck in the
ground so close together that no tank could have got between
them. After the war they dug holes and dropped these pillars
down into the ground. Most of them were gone from the golf
course by the time I got there, but they still had a few down
near the shore, where they might have interfered with the
play on some of the holes during the tournament When I
got there they were rushing to get rid of the last of the pillars.
They had crews of former Polish soldiers who had escaped to
England during the war working on the job. Some of the
townspeople had to pitch in near the end and help to get the
work done in time.
There were no practice fairways or practice tees at Gul-
lane. Over there, I guess, they just practice by playing around
the course. Tournament players in this country like to get
out in one spot and play the same kind of shot over and
The secretary of the club at Gullane saw me one day
trying to practice out of the high grass alongside a fairway,
and he asked me, "Why don't you go play on the golf course?"
I explained what I was doing, and then they fenced off a
practice place for me. They let some of the sheep in there,
and the sheep cropped that grass down as neat as any
At that time of year it stayed light in Gullane until about
three hours after midnight. They put up blackout curtains
for me in my room at the hotel so the light wouldn't keep
me awake. And before I went to bed, I'd sometimes get in an
extra practice round of golf after dinner.
George was phoning me just about every day from Den-
ver what a phone bill he ran up that month! And he's always
been after me not to wear myself out with too much practic-
ing. One night he called, and I said, "Hi, honey. It's eleven
o'clock at night here, and I just got in from playing a round."
He said, "Good Lord! Now take it easy, will you?"
Along the first two fairways there was this street, with
a lot of big houses lined up on the other side. When I came
down those fairways during my practice rounds, there'd be
people in the windows of the houses watching me. I always
waved to them, and they'd wave back. One family came over
and invited me to dinner, I went there a couple of times, and
became good friends with them.
And then there was Mrs. Annie Thurban Brown, a golfer
at the club. Her husband had been killed in the war, I be-
lieve. She had a little daughter eight or nine years old. She
was just wonderful to me. She took me places and showed
me everything. She helped me with money exchanges and
things like that.
I think it was on my second practice round that I got in
the tall grass off the fairway on one hole. It was a kind of wet
day, and my hands were a little sticky from the dampness.
That grass was real long, and it laid down sort of like an
Afghan hound's hair.
I went in there to play my ball out. I said to myself,
"Well, IVe got to learn how to handle this stuff." I caught
the ball all right, but the grass wrapped around my club, and
the handle banged against my left thumb and chipped a
Mrs. Brown got a doctor for me. He treated it, and then
every morning he'd put something on it to kill the pain,
and bandage it with an elastic wrapping so that I could still
play golf. I didn't want anybody to think I was trying to build
up an advance alibi for myself, so I just wore a glove over it,
and nobody noticed that there was anything the matter with
That thumb stayed sore as a boil, but I think it actually
may have helped me during the tournament, I didn't slug
the ball quite so hard, and I had better control of it. I don't
believe I missed a fairway on but one of my drives the entire
I found the weather over there could change three and
four times a day. It might start out real warm, and then in no
time it would be awfully cold. I had packed for summer. I
thought if I needed anything more I could buy it over in
Scotland. I found I couldn't because I had no coupons.
Clothes rationing was still on.
I had a lot of things I'd made especially for my trip to
Scotland gabardine pastels, green and pink and white and
blue and red skirts. I'd made some culotte skirts. I didn't
bring anything warm, though, except a couple of sweaters.
One of them was an orange cashmere with angora in it.
Well, I mentioned to the press that I hadn't been pre-
pared for any cold weather. That got into the papers, and
during the next few days gifts of heavy clothing just flooded
into the hotel. First people nearby were bringing packages
on their bicycles, and then stuff started coming by mail. Pretty
soon the lobby of the hotel was stacked high with these
I was really touched by the generosity of all those peo-
ple. I went through a few of the packages and picked out an
old siren suit one of those things the British air-raid workers
used to wear and a pair of blue corduroy slacks. I wrote
thank-you notes for those two items, and I asked the news-
paper reporters please to publish my thanks to everybody
else. The packages that had return addresses I sent back. On
the rest I announced that I hoped the people would come and
pick them up, because I was sure they could put the clothing
to better use somewhere else.
From then on, if I was afraid of bad weather, I'd take
the siren suit and slacks out to the course with me and carry
them along in my golf bag. If it got a little cold, I'd put on the
siren suit. If it got real cold or rainy, I'd slip the slacks on
over it. And I already had my cashmere sweater.
When the tournament started on June ninth that was
a Monday I didn't know what to expect. There was no
qualifying or seeding. They just put all the names in a big
hat and drew them out. About the only player I was familiar
with was another American girl who had come over for the
tournament. That was Helen Sigel, of Philadelphia. She's now
Mrs. Helen Sigel Wilson. The only other American in it was a
girl from Fall River, Massachusetts, named Ruth Woodward,
now Mrs. Kip Finch of New Canaan, Conn.
A total of ninety-nine women were entered, and it was
the luck of the draw who you came up against. This was one
of those sudden-death tournaments. Every day you had to
survive two eighteen-hole matches, one in the morning and
one in the afternoon. By Thursday the field would be nar-
rowed down to two women for a thirty-six-hole final.
The caliber of my opponents wasn't the only unknown
quantity for me in this "Ladies' Amateur Golf Championship
Tournament, under the management of the Ladies' Golf Un-
ion'* to quote the official British name for it. I was due for
all kinds of surprises.
I got out early the morning of my first match
in the British Women's Amateur tournament. I expected to
see a crowd already gathering, the way it does for an Amer-
ican tournament. But there was hardly a soul in sight.
I said to the club secretary, "I thought Scotland was golf
country. Where are all the people?"
He said, "They'll be here." And sure enough, all these
buses began coming in, and by the time I teed off there must
have been several thousand people there. They didn't come
early because there was nothing for them to do at the course.
They couldn't go to the clubhouse, naturally. Not even the
golf pros were allowed in the clubhouse. I understand that's
changing now at the British clubs. Anyway, there were no
facilities for the spectators at Gulkne, so the people didn't
get there until it was time for the matches they wanted to
On the first tee there was a sign saying, "No Practice
Swing." Well, I never hit practice balls off the tee when I'm
about to play a match. If you don't hit one right, then immedi-
ately you start trying to correct your swing and it's too late
for that. The most I'll do is chip and putt a little bit before the
start of a match.
But I do like my practice swing. It sort of gets me in the
groove. Since it was against the rules in this tournament, I
got in the habit of going off to one of the few spots where
the grass was cropped down enough and taking my warm-up
swings there. Then my match would be called, and when I
got up on the first tee, I'd sometimes forget and automatically
start to take another practice swing. But I always remem-
bered in time and checked myself.
Anyhow, the starting time came for my first match, which
was against a girl named Helen Nimmo. And I spotted these
two little old Scotsmen sitting on a bench. They were wearing
kilts. I'd gone to Scotland with the idea that all the men wore
kilts, but I found that wasn't so around Gullane. These two
were the first I'd seen. I asked about them later, and was told
that they were golf professionals from the North Highlands,
where the men do wear kilts right along.
Those two just fascinated me. They were in my galleries
all through the tournament. They'd always be sitting on that
bench near the first tee, and after my opponent and I drove
off, they'd join the crowd and follow me around the course.
They'd walk along with their heads close together, gabbing
and gabbing, and those kilts would be bobbing up and down.
So my first match began, and I couldn't get over how
quiet the gallery was. They were so orderly in moving around
the course there was none of the wild stampeding you
sometimes have with American crowds. And they didn't yell
or applaud. The most you'd hear would be somebody saying,
"Well played/' or "Fine shot."
I was saying to myself, "Gee, you have to knock the ball
in the hole off the tee to get a hand around here." Well, I
clinched that first match on the twelfth hole. And it wasn't
until then that they all applauded.
I told Mrs. Helen Holm, a past British Women's Amateur
champion, who was acting as a marshal, "I wish these people
would just holler and enjoy themselves the way the crowds
do back home." And she explained that the Scottish tradition
was for the gallery to be very quiet so as not to disturb the
But I was going to loosen up those galleries if I could. In
my match that afternoon I began kidding them a little. I
said, "Come on, let's have some fun." I told them they could
make all the noise they wanted to and it wouldn't bother
me. I said the noise would make me play better, because it
was what I was used to.
My opponent in the afternoon round was Mrs. Enid
Sheppard. She gave me a pretty tough match, but I won it on
the sixteenth hole, four-and-two. When a match ends like
that in an American tournament, we often go ahead and play
out the rest of the course. We play the by-holes to give the
crowd a little extra show.
I asked Mrs. Sheppard, and I asked Helen Holm, "Would
it be all right to play the by-holes?" Mrs. Holm said at first
I don't know where or just when this shot was taken,
but I sure" dig the fellow Fm "teaching/* When it
concerns grace, rhythm and power in hitting a golf
ball, Sam Snead is my all-time pin-up boy.
I've enjoyed a fine association with Serbin, Inc. Between us we've turned
out some sensible sports shirts for gals who want comfort with grooming.
Male pros have been tinkering
with and reworking their
clubs for years, but most girls
are satisfied to just swing
them. Not riie.
With the gentleman to whom I owe so much, my life in fact. Dr. W. E.
Tatum of Beaumont, my home, and a benign wizard with cancer. This
was taken on April 14, 1953, at the Beaumont Country Club, the day
I just lasted to win my last tournament before checking into the Hotel
My sister Lillie remained close until
they wheeled me into the biggest
competitive round of my life. Then,
when they finally checked me out
of the hospital I was invalided at
my brother's home in Newton,
Texas. I was weak and washy but
at least the desire to return to golf
was burning . . . and strong! This
third picture is triumph of a sort.
I'm back in Tampa and helping me
to unpack the car is Betty Dodd, a
wonderful girl who stuck to me
through the roughest going. This
was on July 3, 1953, and our little
home at the Tampa Golf Club sure
International News Photo
Fishing at Key Largo with my brother Ole. fm on
the mend here and feeling stronger by the minute
as Betty takes a siesta in the background.
Two lost souls, I was back on
the firing line again 3/2 months
after my operation, I'd struggled
through two mid- 80 rounds at
the Tarn O'Shanter and when I
headed for the 6th tee of the
3rd round, I was beginning to
doubt everything including my
confidence! I guess I started to
cry and George, bless him, is
trying to comfort me.
International News Photo
Fresh start. After rny little cloudburst I took a fresh tuck in my belt, and
the shots started coming off much better. I finished that round with a 78 for
15th place. Then a few days later I finished 3rd in the World Championship.
Wide World Photo
Count your blessings. I've made many trips to children's wards
since my own recovery. Somehow, children accept bitter blows
with a near-divine faith.
This little beauty is Barbara Ann Scott, who also knows the meaning
of relentless work and practice. As for Pierre, Barbara's pup-a
kibitzer isn't he?
Wide World Photo
On the pro golf tour, we often bust out and give the customers a little
something extra, but I don't think Arthur Godfrey is looking for Betty
and me just yet.
Younger than springtime, and that's how I felt after posting a record
69 at Tam O'Shanter in '54. George is a willing stooge here, but believe
me, he's a wonderful chef.
Associated Press Photo
With Byron Nelson, a Texas fire horse. Byron turned himself out
to competitive pasture some years back but came galloping back
to the fires in '55. His, recent victory in the French Open is symbolic.
This was at the Tam O'Shanter a jFew years back.
Gary Middlecoff may become the ,
heir, in- fact, to Ben Hogan's
throne. It couldn't happen to a
nicer person or a harder-working
pro. (Below) There's a lot of
Irish plus Texas- American in Ben
Hogan's wonderful smile. Ben's
the shiningest example of work
and more work!
Wide World Photo
Wilson Sporting Goods Co.
I like this picture simply because it points up strengths-from the feet
on up, in a pretty good golf swing . . . again!
Winning the '54 U. S. Women's Open was, perhaps, one of the most
satisfying victories of my life. As a beacon, it served to blink encourage-
ment to thousands who must battle cancer.
Another thrill was watching our
new home in Tampa take on
shape and character. It may not
be "pure" architecture, but for
George and me it's the ultimate
in comfortable living.
Lon H. Wilson
Roses have always been my favor-
ite flowers and I love growing them.
The President is an enthusiastic golfer; Mrs. Eisenhower a
gracious First Lady, I may be about to shake Ike's hand at a
Washington dinner rally in October '54, but it could be I'm
telling him about a 2-foot putt I blew in a recent tournament.
Here, we're teeing off for the Cancer Fund Drive as Mr.
President uses the overlapping grip to get the greatest dis-
tance out of the initial tee shot.
Wide World Photo
At the New York Met Golf Writers' dinner in January '55,
Bob Jones congratulates '54 Open champion Ed Furgol.
What with Bob's spinal trouble; Ben Hogan's comeback
from that nearly fatal smashup; Furgol's withered left arm,
and my cancer, we all have a vital "something" in common
besides golf. And I think it is our burning interest in golf
that has helped us all to live with and to overcome these
In the evenings, the breezes blow in from Tampa Bay and
life can be very restful and beautiful around our home. I've
been a wonderfully fortunate girl ... but I don't intend to
>ast on my good fortunes.
that she didn't know whether we should, because that wasn't
done in Scotland. But she's spent quite a bit of time in the
United States herself, and finally she said to go ahead and do
I gave them some of the trick shots I use in exhibitions
in this country. There's one where I put a kitchen match on
the ground behind my ball on the tee, and when I drive, it
sounds like a small cannon being fired, because that match
goes off with a loud pop.
I did that off the seventeenth tee, and the ball sailed
nearly 300 yards out there and landed in a trap right in
front of the green. From the trap I did another of my stunts.
I balance one ball on top of the other, which is quite a trick
in itself. I swing, and the bottom ball is supposed to go on
the green and the top one into my pocket. Well, not only
did the one ball jump into my pocket, the other went right
into the hole.
By this time the gallery was in an uproar. When I finished
out on the eighteenth green by turning around backwards
and putting the ball between my legs into the cup, they
didn't quiet down for a long time. They kept me out there
giving autographs for nearly an hour.
The next day there was a sign on the bulletin board:
TPlease do not play the by-holes." So I didn't do that any
more. But those crowds got bigger and friendlier every day.
They sounded almost like the crowds at home by the end of
One of the British golf writers, Fred Pignon, headed his
story of that first- day: OUR GIRLS SHAKEN BY GOLF
'BABE'. He wrote: "Mrs. Zaharias took practically all the
spectators and crashed her way over the hills and dales o
this testing, undulating course. She tore holes in the rough
with tremendous recovery shots, and simply bettered her
opponents in both her matches with the most tremendous
exhibition of long driving ever seen in women's golf."
There was just one person there that week who seemed
to resent my coming over to try and win their championship.
That was a woman whose name I've forgotten. She wasn't in
the tournament herself, but I believe she was a former player.
Well, all of us contestants had cards that admitted us to the
clubhouse for tea. I went up there that first afternoon, and
this woman invited me to join her.
Of course, I wanted to be friends with everybody, and
I sat down with her. And she began telling me, "Did you
know that there is a jinx against American women in this
tournament? Why, your greatest players have come over here,
women like Glenna Collett and Virginia Van Wie, and they've
never been able to win."
She went on like that, and she said, "Aren't you worried
about the jinx? Do you think you can succeed where all those
other fine players have failed?"
I told her, "I didn't come over here to lose/* and I broke
away as soon as I could without making a scene. That was
one woman who didn't speak my language, and I don't mean
because of her Scottish accent.
In my two matches the next day I was really on my
game. Women's par at Gullane was seventy-six, and men's
par was seventy-one. At least, that's the way the experts
calculated it. There was no official par for the course.
In the morning against Mrs. Val Reddan, I was even
with the men's par through the first nine holes, and only one
over it by the fourteenth, where I closed out the match,
sk-and-four. In the afternoon I shot the first nine in thirty-
three two under men's par. Mrs. Cosmo Falconer had a
forty, which was only one over women's par, but she still was
five down at the turn. The final score of that match was
Both the other American girls were eliminated that day
Helen Sigel in the morning and Ruth Woodward in the
afternoon. That left me as the only one with a chance to bring
the United States its first British Women's Amateur title.
Another of the differences I was having to get used to
over there was the Scottish caddies. They're elderly men
the one I had looked about eighty years old to me. And
they're accustomed to giving the golfers a lot of advice about
how to play.
I never take advice from a caddy, other than to ask them
about distances and directions if I'm not too familiar with
the course. I always plan my own shots and pick my own
Well, it wasn't long before this old fellow started in tell-
ing me what he thought I should do. At first I said to myself,
"I'll just ignore him." But then we came to one shot where I
wanted to drop the ball on the green with my wedge. And
the caddie handed me a three-iron.
I said, "Would you please leave the clubs in the bag and
let me pick them out?"
He said, "Madam, the wind is against you. You should
take this three-iron and run the ball up there. 9 *
I told him, "I don't play two and three-iron pitches on
little short shots. I'm used to hitting the ball up in the air."
And I finally got to play it my way with the wedge.
Later, there was a story that I went to the caddie master
and asked > "Don't you have any younger caddies here?" And
he said, "Yes, Mrs. Zaharias, well be glad to get you a younger
boy." And he brought out a caddie who was only seventy-
Actually I kept my same caddie straight through the
tournament. He stopped trying to choose my clubs for me
after I asked him not to, and carried my clubs in good style.
On the third day, a Wednesday, I was to play Frances
Stephens in the quarterfinals in the morning. If I got by her,
I probably would face Jean Donald in the semifinals in the
afternoon. That was the match they'd been making a big
thing out of in the newspapers. Jean Donald was the Scottish
girl who was supposed to have the best chance of beating me
and keeping the championship at home.
They were talking it up around the club all week. People
would say to me, "You and Jean Donald should have a won-
derful match if you come up against each other. She's a fine
golfer, and this is her home club. She really knows how to
play this course."
Well, they didn't realize it, but that sort of talk just
builds me up. The bigger they make a match, the more I
get fired up to go out there and show them. It was like the
year that the late 0. B. Keeler, the well-known Atlanta golf
writer, picked Louise Suggs of Atlanta to be the top woman
golfer. That got me hustling so much that I had one of my
very best years on the tournament circuit.
In the quarterfinals in the morning against Frances
Stephens I had my hardest match. I shot men's par for the
first nine holes and she held me even. After thirteen holes
I was still even with men's par and only one up. But I took
both the fourteenth and fifteenth holes by a stroke, and then
I halved the sixteenth to win out, three-and-two.
In the afternoon against Jean Donald well, she's a nice
girl and a nice golfer, but that wasn't her day. We had a real
mob of people following us. The Associated Press account
said, "The crowd, attracted by the report that the Scottish
champion was out to slay the American champion, grew to
almost unmanageable proportions. Estimated by golf writers
at between 5000 and 8000, the gallery was the largest of the
season far larger than the crowd which gathered to watch
the British men's amateur at Carnoustie two weeks ago.
Nearly 100 stewards barely preserved order."
Jean Donald was hitting her drives almost as far as mine
for a while, but I beat her with my short game. The match
only lasted thirteen holes, and I was one under men's par
for as far as we went. I had just one three-putt green, and
there were six times when I was able to hole out with a
single putt. It ended seven-and-five, which is a runaway score
in an eighteen-hole match.
Like any other woman, I'm forever freshening up my
lipstick Coming off the twelfth green I was putting new
lipstick on. I was just doing it automatically, not even think-
ing about it. Well, it happened that I had her sk down with
six to play at that time. One of the writers said in his story
that I was so sure I'd close out the match on the next hole
I stopped to put lipstick on to get ready for the photogra-
The photographers swooped down after that next hole,
all right. Jean Donald was a real good sport about her de-
feat She posed with me dancing the Highland Fling and
everything. I had been over to her house for tea and dinner
and staff like that. We had become very good friends. Her
father was a doctor.
Another person I saw a lot of that week was the father
of Jimmy Thomson, one of our professional stars. Jimmy has
always been a great friend of mine in this country, and
when he heard I was going to Scotland he said to be sure and
look up his dad at the Berwick golf course. So I did. Jimmy's
dad was the sportiest looking guy in all of Scotland, wearing
these sports jackets and slacks that Jimmy had sent him
from the United States.
He walked around with me in every match I played
over there. He looked just like Jimmy, and was the same
wonderful kind of fellow. He kept talking to me in his Scot-
tish burr, "You're doing fine. You're a beautiful player." He
really did a lot to keep me pepped up all through that tourna-
Meanwhile I kept running into that woman I mentioned
earlier who tried to get me worried about the "jinx" against
American players in the British Women's Amateur. She'd
buttonhole me every time she saw me at the club or the hotel
and say, "Don't forget about the jinx." Finally some of the
other women found out what she was doing. They must have
told her she was being unsporting, and to pipe down, because
when I saw her in the clubhouse the last day, she just said,
"Hello," and nothing more.
I'll have to admit I was thinking about that jinx a little bit
the night before the final round. After all, I could get unlucky
and have a bad day like anybody else. The girl I was going
to play, Jacqueline Gordon, had been the big surprise of the
tournament. She wasn't supposed to be one of the top British
women players. She wasn't on their Curtis Cup team or any-
thing. But she'd been beating everybody all week long.
I had my dinner down in the hotel dining room, and
then went up to my room. They were still knocking them-
selves out to please me at that little ion. They were running
low on bacon, and the chickens weren't laying quite so many
eggs, but they still had plenty of the ham. And the maids
had been instructed to take my golf clothes and socks and
things and launder them whenever I asked. I can't tell you
how grateful I felt to those people.
They had put a heater in my room for when it turned
cold, and I needed it the night before the finals. I pulled
down the blackout shades to keep out that late-evening light.
But I couldn't sleep. Finally I got out of bed and put up the
shade and sat by the window.
I ordered up some tea. It was brought by the little fellow
who doubled as a desk clerk and bellboy and everything. I
told him I was kind of upset, and that it was partly because
of the unpleasant way that woman had been needling me
about the jinx.
He said, "Mrs. Zaharias, don't take any notice of her.
Everybody here wants you to win."
Eventually I did go to sleep. When I woke up it was a
beautiful morning. Some of the other days the weather had
been pretty mean. People thought it must be tough on me
having to play under those conditions. Actually I was ready
for it. Before leaving the United States, I'd gone out and
practiced like mad every time there was bad weather, just to
help prepare myself for this tournament on a Scottish seaside
The last morning, though, the weather was so lovely that
I dressed in some of my warm-weather clothes. I put on a
light skirt with a light sweater, and white golf shoes and white
visor. I had a white golf glove with green backing to cover up
that injured thumb on my left hand. Oh, I was a doll that
morning, I'm telling you!
It was so nice and warm I didn't even bother to take
along my siren suit and slacks, which I found out was a mis-
take. And I was having a little trouble with my golf shoes.
I'd brought along a new pair of brown all-weather shoes that
I'd had made especially for this trip, but they'd begun to split
from getting wet so often out on the course, and then stand-
ing by the heater to dry. So I had to switch to an old pair of
golf shoes for the final.
I got out there for my match with Jacqueline Gordon,
and this time there already was a crowd waiting for us to
start. I could still pick out those two little Scotsmen in kilts,
though. I got up on the first tee and looked around, and I
saw die British flag flying at the top of the flag pole. I stood
at attention and saluted it. The crowd applauded.
Then I looked for an American flag, and someone pointed
to the roof of the clubhouse. They had this big American flag
stretched out there. I turned around and got right down on
the ground and salaamed three times. Everybody roared.
So we started to play. Going down the first and second
fairways, I waved as usual to everybody in those houses
across the street. Only now it was mostly the servants and the
children that I was waving to. The other people were at the
We hadn't been out there long before the weather turned
chilly and windy. Pretty soon I was wishing for my cold-
weather stuff. All I had along with me in my golf bag was a
blue sweater, I didn't bum up the course during that morn-
ing round the way I had in practically all my other matches.
And Jacqueline Gordon was playing real good. She wasn't
a long hitter, but she was consistent. At the twelfth hole she
went two up. I squared it at the fifteenth, and we were still all
even at lunch time.
When I came off the course for the lunch break, fifty
Scotsmen must have told me, "Babe, go git your slocks on.
Go git your slocks on." I was going to do that, and I was also
going to do something else.
I didn't waste any time getting back to the
hotel after my morning round against Jacqueline Gordon in
the finals of the British Women's Amateur. Along with getting
some warmer clothes, I wanted to try and have my best golf
shoes fixed to wear that afternoon. These were the shoes that
had cracked because of the dampness.
At the inn they served me a nice lunch in my room. Then
I stretched out for a short rest. After a few minutes I got up
and dressed. I put on my siren suit and slacks, which Td failed
to take with me during the morning. The newspapers said
the next day that I switched to my "lucky slacks." But I didn't
do it for luck. I was just cold!
I headed for the shoemaker shop. Yd been told where It
was, and also that it was a lady shoemaker. I got there, and she
had a sign in her window like others I'd been seeing in shops
along the way: "Sorry. Closed. Gone To See The Babe/'
When I got to the clubhouse, somebody asked if I'd had
my shoes taken care of, and I said, "No, she was closed."
Well, somehow the word circulated through the crowd to
that lady shoemaker. It wasn't but a few minutes later that
she came up to me and said, "Did you have some shoes you
I said, "Yes, ma'am, I sure do." And she took my shoes
back to her shop and repaired them, and brought them back
to me before we teed off. It was such a nice thing for her to
I was really feeling good by the time Jacqueline Gordon
and I started in again. I said to myself, **I just know Tm going
to play a lot better now." I broke our tie on the very first
hole in the afternoon. I got a par four and she had a five.
On the second hole, a par five, I had a long drive and
then a long second shot that put me on the green. I holed out
an eighteen-footer for an eagle three, which of course gave
me the hole. When I won the third hole too, with a par five
to her six, I knew for sure I was in charge.
Jacqueline Gordon hung in there, but things kept going
my way. About the best she could do was to halve some of
the holes. Those two kilted Scotsmen were still in my gallery,
and gabbing away more excitedly than ever.
On one hole I hit a tremendous tee shot. I really creamed
it Oh, that drive felt good! It left me just a wedge shot to the
green. Walking down the fairway, I was close enough to that
pair in kilts to hear one of them saying to the other, *Tve
watched Walter Hagen and Bobby Jones and Gene Sarazen
and all those Americans whoVe played over here, and none
of them could hit the ball better than this girl can."
Now that kind of talk is nice to hear. At this point I felt
I just had to say something to them. I fell in step behind them
and put my arms across their shoulders.
"How would you boys like to see me knock this little
wedge shot right in the cup?" I said.
They said I can't really do that Scotch burr "Ah!
That would be fine!" So I hit the ball, and it banked Just a
little bit, and stopped right on the edge of the cup. It almost
did go in. And you should have seen the expressions on the
faces of those two Scotsmen. Their mouths were hanging wide
open. Even the kilts had stopped bobbing for a minute. You
could see they were thinking, "She can do whatever she wants
to with the ball!"
I was five up going into the back nine. Jacqueline Gordon
took the next one it was the only hole I Lost that afternoon.
I won the hole after that. Then we played three straight
halves, which ended the match, since I was five up and there
were only four holes left.
The crowd gave me a wonderful ovation when it was
over. It seemed like they stood for fifteen minutes and ap-
plauded. Then there was more picture-taking and dancing
the Highland Fling and signing autographs and every-
During the autographing I took the glove off my left
hand. That was the first time I'd done it. Nobody had seen
the bandage on my left thumb until now. It caused something
of a sensation. Then the photographers had me go over to
the area in front of the clubhouse for pictures, and I hurdled
the brown brick wall that ran around it. There was another
uproar over that.
Finally there was the presentation of the championship
trophy. I sang a little Highland song I'd learned from some
of the Scottish golf pros in the United States hoping I'd have
this occasion to use it. And everybody seemed to like that
Before heading back to the United States, I wanted to
spend three or four days playing some of the other Scottish
golf courses I'd been hearing about all my life. There were
about five famous ones right in that general area. I didn't get
to all of them, but I covered as much ground as I could.
One day I went to Tommy Armour's old club, Lothian-
burn. There was a tiny item in the papers: BABE TO PLAY
TOMMY ARMOUR'S OLD COURSE. And several thousand
people showed up there to watch me.
Then I went to Muirfield, where there was such a fog that
I could hardly see twenty feet ahead of me, and yet I had one
of my best rounds in Scotland. I believe it was a seventy-one.
They invited me to have tea afterwards in a beautiful room
in the clubhouse. I understand that ordinarily only the men
members were allowed in there.
At Glen Eagles I played in a foursome with Jean Donald
and Annie Thurban Brown and a man golfer they knew. He
was a surgeon. Glen Eagles was more of an American-type
course than any I saw over there. They had a beautiful layout
with a beautiful hotel.
One club I was determined to see was old St. Andrews.
That was a longer trip than the others. We had to start out
by taking the ferry over the Firth of Forth, which is where
Gullane is located.
It had been announced in the papers that no gallery
would be allowed when I played St. Andrews. I wanted a
chance to just relax and play the course without a crowd trail-
ing me. Well, they had this railing some distance back of the
first tee. When I got there, about a thousand people were
jammed behind that railing. I drove off, and none of them
moved. I got about a quarter o the way down the fairway,
and then I said to myself, "Oh, well." I looked back and waved
to them, "Come on!" So those people followed me around
the entire eighteen holes.
I had St. Andrews built up in my mind as the most
glorious course in the whole world. I'd heard and read so
much about it. All the great champions had played there,
and it was so rich in tradition.
Well, to tell you the truth, the course gave me an awful
letdown. It had been laid out in an era when they didn't hit
the ball very far. Traps which they couldn't reach in the old
days are right in the way of long drives now. Like most of
the Scottish courses that I saw, that St. Andrews layout looked
as if a big crane had picked up a lot of dirt and dropped it
around and grass had grown there. St. Andrews was just
as nature made it. The course had no personality, no contours,
But still it was a thrill for me to be there. When I came
up to the last hole, which is probably the most famous hole
in the world, I told the gallery how much it meant to me to
set foot on it. It carries so many memories of Jones and Hagen
and Vardon and Morrissey and the other golf immortals. And
I thought of all the great matches that had been decided on
that hole, and the hearts that had been broken there.
I went all through Tom Morrissey's old pro shop, and got
a big kick out of being presented with a golf club that he
used to play with many years ago. Then I visited the golf
museum, with its exhibits dating three and four hundred
years back the old-style clubs and the gutta percha balls.
I was like a kid looking through a dime store. That museum is
a real golf shrine.
I didn't get to play Carnoustie and one or two other
courses I'd planned on. I'd already been away from George
longer than I ever had been since we got married. I wanted
to get back home.
My return trip sure was a contrast to the one coming
over. The night before my train left, they had me spend the
night at the Ladies > Golf Union building in Edinburgh. At
the station when my train pulled out the platform was loaded
with people singing "Auld Lang Syne.'* And two railroad of-
ficials were there to see me aboard. They put me in a compart-
ment all by myself* It was loaded with flowers. They served
me my tea right there in the compartment.
When I got to London, It was the same thing there. The
Ladies' Golf Union put me up for the night, and then I had
special accommodations on the boat train to Southampton,
And a purser from the boat came to the hotel and took care of
my luggage, so I wouldn't have to wait in any lines to get
The voyage back was real nice. I sailed on the Queen
Elizabeth. When we were about two hours and forty minutes
out of New York, a boat came out to meet us. It was carrying
reporters and photographers and newsreel cameramen
seventy-one of them. As their boat got close, I could see a big
guy with a white shirt on standing up front at the rail. I said,
"That's George!" And it was.
I was hollering and waving to him, and I put two fingers
in my mouth and whistled. Just at that moment the whistle
on the Queen Elizabeth let out a blast. George made a joke
out of it later. He said, "Honey, I could hear your whistle
above the Queen Elizabeth's"
They let down a rope ladder for these fellows to climb
aboard our ship. George was the first to start up it. Our boat
gave a little lurch, and I called to him, "Hey, honey, watch
out! You're going to turn the Queen Elizabeth over!"
When all the press was aboard, it must have taken two
hours for the interviewing and picture-taking and what not.
I was dressed up in a fancy outfit, but when the cameramen
said they wished I was wearing kilts, I told them, "Be right
with you," and went and changed. I got a Tartan cap and a
pair of kilts for George to pose in, too, and got him to try the
George and I stayed in New York a couple of days, and
our phone seemed to be ringing all the time. One of the news-
papermen who called was my great friend Grantland Rice.
Granny wasn't very well at that time. He said he'd like to
interview me, and George, who took the call, told him, "Sure.
Well come up there." But Granny said that wouldn't be right.
He insisted on coming to see us. That's the kind of fellow he
A lot of the calls we got in New York were bids for radio
appearances and things like that. But we turned them all
down. We also had a visit from our friend Fred Corcoran,
the promotion director of the Men's Professional Golf As-
sociation. He offered to represent me if I ever did turn pro.
We told him that I intended to remain an amateur, but if I
should change my mind we'd let him know.
Then we went back to Denver, which was my tome
city at that time. They put on a big celebration for me. They
staged a parade through the city streets. They had rigged up
a lot of floats, each one representing a different stage in my
career basketball, baseball, javelin-throwing, hurdling and
all the rest. I was in the last float, which was stacked with
roses. I kept throwing roses to the crowd.
Mayor Quigg Newton and Governor Lee Knous of Colo-
rado were there. At City HaH the Mayor presented me with
a giant key to the city. I gave him a big kiss. There was a mob
of people watching about 50,000, according to the news-
papers and they just roared.
The key to the city was about three times as tall as George
and weighed 250 pounds. Somebody asked me how I was
going to get it home, and I said, "George will carry it." He
didn't have to do that, but he did show that he was able to
lift it off the ground.
This Denver homecoming was in early July. I was com-
mitted to appear in the Broadinoor Match Play Tournament
at Colorado Springs in the middle of the month, and I did. I
beat Dot Kielty in the finals, ten-and-nine, to stretch my
winning streak to seventeen straight. That victory also en-
titled me to permanent possession of the Broadmoor trophy,
which was a big silver cup with a lot of beautiful handwork
on it. It had cost them a lot of money. I don't believe they
thought anyone would ever retire it. I could see they weren't
too happy about having to give it up, so I told them just to
make up a plaque for me and keep the cup in competition.
After the Broadmoor tournament I wasn't planning to
do much of anything but get ready to defend my American
title in the National Women's Amateur in Detroit in Septem-
ber. But in the meantime all sorts of offers kept coming in.
It got to the point where I stood to make a fast half -million
dollars if I'd turn professional again.
Now George and I didn't need money. He could afford
to spend as much as $15,000 a year to pay my expenses on the
amateur golf circuit, the way he'd been doing. He had his
promotions and a hotel business and other things in Denver.
But sometimes offers get so big you feel you just have to take
It's pretty hard to say you don't want the kind of money
I was being offered. The biggest item was a $300,000 movie
deal. A Hollywood official had told George his company
would pay me that amount to make a series of ten golf shorts.
It nearly killed me to throw over the amateur standing
Yd struggled so hard to get, but I couldn't see any other
choice. On August fourteenth we called a press conference
in New York, and I announced that I was turning pro. I signed
up with Fred Corcoran to be my business representative. He's
been representing me ever since, along with his other clients
like Ted Williams and Stan MusiaL
Well, one of the first things that happened after I went
professional again was that the movie deal fell through. It
had been a verbal agreement, with nothing in writing. We
thought about fighting the case through the courts, but we
didn't Eventually I did make three movie shorts for another
studio, Columbia Pictures, although at nowhere near the
fabulous price the first people had offered.
But I did cash in on a lot of other things that Fred
Corcoran lined up for me. There were lots and lots of exhibi-
tion appearances. And I signed up with the Wilson Sporting
Goods Company, to be on their advisory staff and have them
market Babe Zaharias golf equipment. I'm under a lifetime
contract with Wilson now. I also signed with the Serbin
dress manufacturers, who malce a golf dress that I designed.
Then I brought out a golf -instruction book with the firm that
is publishing this book, A. S. Barnes and Company.
Fred also booked me into a lot of Sportsmen's Shows,
consulting with George on everything, and he arranged
special stunts for me like giving golf exhibitions before games
in big-league ball parks.
One was Yankee Stadium in New York. I think there
were about 60,000 people there that night. I had to stick to
demonstrating short stuff. I wanted to take a seven or eight-
iron and hit the ball clear over the stadium roof, but they
wouldn't let me do it. They were afraid I might miss and
injure somebody in the stands.
After I did my golf stuff, I made a pass at playing third
base in infield practice. Then I started to pitch. I wanted Joe
DiMaggio to come out and swing against me.
I've met Joe several times. He's a great champion. He's
a little on the shy side. I went over to die Yankee dugout to
get him. "Come on, Joe/' I said. I'm going to pitch to you."
He didn't want to come, but I took him by the arm, and I
grabbed a bat and handed it to him. I walked Joe out to home
plate and bowed low.
All I was afraid of was that I might hit him with a pitch,
or that he might hit me with a batted ball. "Whatever you do,
please don't line one back at me!" I said to him jtist before
I went to the mound. I did hit him right in the ribs with one
pitch, although I don't think it hurt him. But I guess he was
being careful about his batting. He skied a few, and then
finally he took a big swing and missed and sat down,
I think it was during the spring of that same year that
Fred Corcoran arranged a stunt for me with another client
of his, Ted Williams, the great baseball star of the Boston
Red Sox. Fred had us put on a driving contest in Sarasota,
where the Red Sox were training.
Ted is a fine fellow, and, of course, a wonderful athlete.
He doesn't especially care for the things that go along with
being a champion the reporters always congregating
around, and the autograph collectors, and the people with
business propositions. I believe it was because he was getting
tired of all this that Ted Williams talked about retiring as
early as 1954. It wasn't that he couldn't keep going on the
baseball field, because he could.
Ted doesn't get to play too much golf, but he's capable
of hitting a golf ball just as hard as he is a baseball. He was
rusty and erratic that day on the driving range in Sarasota.
When he topped one that just dribbled off the tee, I called
to him, "Better run those grounders out, Tedl There may be
During the five minutes or so that we took turns hitting
the ball, most of my shots went farther than his did. But I'll
have to admit that every so often he whaled one that traveled
a longer distance than any tee shot of mine.
What I was doing most of in the months after I turned
pro was playing golf exhibitions. The fees were good, but we
probably booked too many of them. One month there were
seventeen nights that I was on a plane. I'd play in one place,
then go to the airport to fly to the next place.
That grind began to wear me down physically, al-
though it was years before I'd admit it. I kept on going at a
heavy clip. I'd always felt that no -amount of exertion was too
much for me, and George was coming to believe that, too.
But I found out differently. IT1 get to that in a little while.
A schedule packed with other commitments can also dull
your tournament sharpness. On October 9, 1947, my streak
of seventeen straight championships finally ended in the
Texas Women's Open at the River Crest Country Club in
Fort Worth. I was playing an eighteen-hole match in the
quarterfinals against a young amateur named Bettye Mims
White. She got the jump and had me three down after fifteen
I couldn't quite pull out the match. I won the sixteenth
and seventeenth with birdies, and had another birdie on
the eighteenth, but she got a birdie of her own there by sink-
ing a final six-foot putt after I'd holed mine out. So she beat
me one up. Bettye was shooting real good golf that day. She's
Mrs. Danoff now, and playing as a professional on our
I bounced back from that defeat and did some more
winning. In fact, I set a record in my very next tournament,
the Hardscrabble Women's Open at Little Rock, Arkansas. I
had a score of 293. That was a world's record then for women
in seventy-two holes of tournament medal play.
I honestly believe that if I had squeaked through in
the Texas Women's Open, I'd have gone on and stretched my
winning streak to twenty-five or thirty tournaments. For
a while after that loss a little of my incentive was gone. I
didn't have quite so much to work for, now that my string was
As a professional in 1948, 1 found that there were a few
more tournaments open to me than when I'd first played as a
pro back in the 1930's. I even tried to enter the men's National
Open, but the United States Golf Association wouldn't let
me. They issued a statement, "As the championship has al-
ways been intended to be for men, the eligibility rules have
been rephrased to confirm that condition. Thus, the USGA
has declined an informal entry submitted in behalf of Mrs.
I don't suppose I'd have finished around the top if they
had let me in there. But I don't think I'd have been at the
bottom either. I wouldn't have disgraced myself.
In 1948 I did get to play and win both the women's divi-
sions at Tarn o' Shanter. I also won the National Women's
Open. Then there were several others that I didn't win.
I was very happy about that first National Women's
Open victory, although the tournament was still pretty new,
and didn't have quite the prestige that it does today. It was
played at the Atlantic City Country Club. I went right into
the lead and stayed there all the way. I took the $1200 first
prize by a margin of eight strokes with a 300 score.
An additional prize of $1000 was offered to anyone who
could break 300. If I'd sunk a five-foot putt on the last hole,
I'd have got that too. "Oh, well," I said, when my putt just
missed dropping, "I'd only have had to give the money to the
government for income taxes.'*
It wasn't my tournament earnings that had me in a high
income bracket that year. It was all the other things I was
doing on the side. I was the leading women's money winner
for 1948, and my winnings totaled just $3400. As you can
see by that, the amount of competition available to a woman
golf pro was still pretty limited.
That was the one fly in the ointment for me. George
realized this, and he started thinking about the problem, the
way he had been when I was up against the same situation
during my earlier pro period. And once again George came up
with an answer. He got the idea that there should be a pro-
fessional tournament circuit for women, just as there was for
When George set out to get the ball rolling for
a women's pro golf tour late in 1948, he had himself an uphill
roll. One big problem was that there were so few women golf
professionals. In addition to myself, there was only Patty
Berg, Helen Dettweiler, Betty Jameson, Betty Hicks, Bea
Gottlieb and one or two others. Patty Berg was about the only
one who was really active. Like me, she was working for the
Wilson Sporting Goods Company, and giving exhibitions all
over the country.
But George talked up the idea with people like L. B.
Icely, the president of the Wilson company, and Fred Corco-
ran, who'd had many years of experience with the men's
tour. George persuaded them that once we got the thing
going, it would build itself up. Mr. Icely agreed to put some
Wilson money behind a women's circuit, and Fred agreed to
In January of 1949, George and Fred and I had a meeting
at the Venetian Hotel in Miami with Patty Berg. We formed
the Ladies' Professional Golf Association. There had pre-
viously been a Women's Professional Golfers Association,
headed by Hope Seignious. We called her up and invited her
to be president of our new association. She had been ill, and
said she wouldn't be able to take on the job, but she wished us
luck. So Patty Berg became president of the Ladies' PGA
for the first year. IVe been president since.
Things went along pretty slowly at the start, but even-
tually it started to snowball, both in number of tournaments
and number of players. At first we'd play for anything we
could get. The total purses for 1949 didn't come to more than
$15,000. By 1955 the minimum per tournament was $5000,
and the total prize money for the year was around $200,000.
Meanwhile I kept on making plenty of money from non-
tournament stuff. And I was working hard for it. To give you
one example, there was a weekend in June of 1948 when I
started out playing in New Canaan, Connecticut. Then we
got in the car and drove to Detroit to play there on a Sunday.
And from Detroit we went right on to Chicago for the
Western Women's Open that coining week.
I got to the finals against Patty Berg. We were all square
at the end of thirty-six holes. And I had to catch a plane that
night to fly back to Connecticut and pky there on Monday.
I could see circling overhead the little chartered plane that
was going to take me from the golf course to make my air-
line connection. It happened to be my birthday, June twenty-
sixth. I got a big cake on the first tee, but I didn't get the
championship trophy. Patty Berg outlasted me to win on the
thirty-seventh hole, one up.
I became a playing pro from Grossinger's in New York
around that time. Then in October of 1950 I was invited by
Eugene Dyer, the owner of the Sky Crest Country Club out-
side Chicago, to serve as their teaching pro. I was the first
woman ever to hold that job at a swank club. I was tickled
to accept the offer, because it was such a boost for women's
standing in the golf world. My contract guaranteed me a
minimum of $20,000 a year at Sky Crest, and also allowed me
to play outside tournaments and exhibitions. They had a little
private airfield right there at the club to make traveling
easier this was the same course where that airplane had
been circling when I lost the 1948 Western Women's Open
to Patty Berg.
I put in a lot of long hours giving lessons. It was hard
work, but I loved it. We moved from Denver to Sky Crest, and
had a nice place out there at the club. We were really living
high off the hog.
One night George said, "Come on and get dressed. Tin
taking you in town to dinner tonight."
We often drove into Chicago for dinner like that. I was
pretty tired from a day of teaching golf, but I put on my new
girdle and one of my best new dresses and got myself aH
dolled up for dining and dancing or whatever George had in
We started off in the car, and came into the outskirts
of Chicago, George stopped the car at a diner. I thought he
probably knew the proprietor or something, and wanted to
talk to him for a minute. I was going to wait in the car, but
George said, "Come on in/*
So I went inside with him, and George pointed to two
stools and said, "Let's take these." Now I supposed Ms idea
was to have a cup of coffee before we went on downtown to
dinner. But when the waitress came over, George ordered
two hamburgers, two bowls of chili, and two glasses of butter-
That's what I used to practically live on in my early years
as a golfer, and I still order it often when I'm on the road. But
we'd been eating hardly anything but choice steaks and stuff
since we came to Sky Crest.
I said to George, "Say, what is all this?"
He said, "I just didn't want you to get out of the habit."
So we ate our hamburgers and chili, and drank our buttermilk.
And then we drove back home to the Sky Crest Country Club.
That club changed hands in 1951, and then later on that
year George and I bought our own golf course the old Forest
Hills Country Club in Tampa, Florida. We made some
changes and improvements, and renamed it the Tampa Golf
and Country Club, and built up the membership to 375.
But all this while something else was happening. It
started in 1948. 1 traveled out to an award-presentation affair
for honor caddies. A number of big-name people were there
Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Jimmy Demaret, Frank Stranahan,
Louise Suggs, Patty Berg. Coming home on a plane, I sud-
denly had this terrific pain in my left side. There was a big
swelling there. Then the pain stopped after a while, and the
swelling went down.
It went on like that for several years. This pain and swell-
ing would come, and then it would go. I'd say to myself, "I
should see a doctor about this, but I'm too busy right now.
I'll have to put it off for a while/'
A little rest always seemed to fix me up. A good hot bath,
and a good night's sleep, and I'd be ready to go again. I kept
on playing, and did my share of winning. In 1949 I was first
again in prize money. The total only came to $4300 our
Ladies > PGA was just getting underway. My tournament
victories included the Tarn o' Shanter "World Championship"
and the Eastern Women's Open. I was second to Louise Suggs
in the National Women's Open.
In 1950 I had a real good year. I won just about all the
top tournaments both the "All-American" and the "World"
at Tarn o' Shanter, the National Women's Open at Wichita,
the Women's Titleholders at Augusta and the Western
Women's Open at Denver. I was on top in money- winnings
again, this time with $13,550.
In 1951 1 scored another double at Tarn o* Shanter, which
helped put me at the head of the money list once more. The
total this time was $15,087. When I didn't win a tournament,
I'd almost always be second or third, or no worse than fourth
or fifth. Nobody can be first in all of them, of course, with
the competition as tough as it is in women's golf today.
I started off as if I was going to have the same sort of
year in 1952. 1 was up around the top in every tournament I
played. I won the Women's Titleholders in March, and I took
the first two legs of the Weathervane. That was a tournament
where we played thirty-six holes in each of four different
cities. The one with the lowest aggregate score would win.
Again I was the leading women's money-winner as we
came to the end of April. But now that trouble in my left side
was really getting to me. The pain and the swelling came
more often. They were more severe, and I couldn't seem to
shake off tie attacks as fast as I had before.
We went out to the West Coast for the last tournament
in April, the Richmond Women's Open at Richmond, Cali-
fornia. In the final round I faded off to a seventy-seven and
wound up in fifth place. George was with me, and he was
getting worried. He thought I should take some time off
and find out what was wrong, but I felt it was my duty to
continue with the tour as long as I was able. I kept a date
to play in Bakersfield, and then in Fresno.
We moved up the West Coast for the third leg of the
Weathervane at Seattle. This was in May. Well, those thirty-
six holes were just agony for me. I finished eleventh, which
was the worst Td ever done in a medal-play tournament.
George urged me to drop out after the first eighteen holes,
but somehow I got around the course the last day. And I
was really dragging.
I hoped that rest would straighten me out again, but
after a day or two I gave up. The pain was so bad now that I
couldn't stand it any longer. I told George, "I think I'd better
go to a hospital." He said, "I think so too/'
I wanted to be treated by my family doctor in Beaumont,
Texas. That's Dr. W. E. Tatum, a wonderful man. So I
phoned him and then went by plane to Beaumont. They were
ready for me there. I was admitted right away to the Hotel
Well, what Td had all this time was a hernia at the top
of my left thigh a femoral hernia. It was in the strangulated
stage now. Doctor Tatum told me that if I'd let it go another
week I might have been a goner. That was on a Friday. It
was Monday before he could operate. They had to build me
up first. I was in an anemic condition, I suppose from over-
exertion and fatigue.
The operation came off fine. I went back to our home,
which was now at the Tampa Golf & Country Club, and be-
gan picking up right away. It would be a while before my
operation mended enough for me to go back to the golf tour-
naments, but I chipped and putted a little.
Although I couldn't play in the National Women's Open,
which was being held at the Bala Golf Club in Philadelphia
the last week in June, I was invited up there to act as starter.
So I went, and sat on the starter's bench at the first tee. The
opening day I said, 'Tin going to hit the first ball." I didn't
risk swinging a driver. I took something like a three-iron
and smacked that ball out there 180 or 190 yards. And that
was as long as most of the drives that were made off that tee
the first day.
After the Open I continued to work myself back into
condition in Tampa, I kept phoning Doctor Tatum and asking
him when it would be all right for me to enter a tournament
again. I was hoping to compete in the "All- American" and
the "World Championship" at Tarn o' Shanter in August
Doctor Tatum said he'd give me the word when it was
okay for me to get back in action again. That smart doctor of
mine! When the first day of the "All-American" was over he
phoned me and said, "Well, Babe, it's all right for you to go
up to Chicago now."
I said, "Why didn't you tell me last week, so I could have
gone up there and played in both the ^All-American' and the
He said, "Because I didn't want you to play in both of
I did get to Tarn o' Shanter in time to enter the "World."
They'd taken to calling this tournament "the Babe Zaharias
benefit/' because I'd won it all the four tines it had been
held. Well, for a while there in 1952 it seemed that I might
make it five in a row. I had a pretty good round the first day,
and also the second day. Then I began to tire. I did all right
the third day on the outgoing nine holes, but tailed off com-
ing back. The fourth day it was the same. I had a good chance
to win after nine holes, then I ran out of gas again, and wound
up third behind Betty Jameson and Patty Berg.
Back home in Tampa I practiced some more, and kept
feeling better. The Texas Women's Open that October was
being held at the River Crest Country Club in Fort Worth.
It's a short course. I had never done much good there. It's
small and narrow, with about fourteen places where you can
go out of bounds. River Crest was where my record streak of
seventeen straight tournaments got broken back in the fall
of 1947. That course had whipped me just about every time
I'd competed there.
I said to George, *Tm going to go down and beat that
golf course." So I went there about a week ahead and prac-
ticed. I did whip the course, and I won the tournament. I felt
Then I came back to Tampa, and before long I wasn't
feeling wonderful any more. November and December are
the months when the tournament circuit closes down, and you
figure on taking it easy and getting your pep back. But it
wasn't working that way for me this time. I wasn't in pain, the
way I had been before my hernia operation. Oh, there were
some little symptoms. But mostly the thing was that I seemed
to be tired all the time. When I played a round of golf, I never
felt like I wanted to play another nine holes, which I generally
did in the past.
In January I came back as usual for the 1953 tournament
circuit. I wasn't winning much of anything. Half the time I
wasn't even finishing in the first five. I'd shoot a good round,
or a good nine holes, and then I'd tire. Those wonderful rub-
downs that George gave me never seemed to reach quite deep
enough any more to get all the tiredness out of my muscles.
On March ninth in Florida I placed second to Patty
Berg in the Jacksonville Women's Open. The next week I
dropped down to sixth place in the Women's Titleholders. I
was feeling worse and worse. George was getting more and
more worried. He was with me the week after that during
the Peach Blossom-Betsy Rawls tournament in Spartanburg,
South Carolina. I just about made it through the last eighteen
holes, and finished completely out of the running.
George made a doctor's appointment for me right then
and there in Spartanburg. I talked him out of it. "Til be all
right once I get a good night's sleep," I said. "In another
couple of weeks the tour will hit Beaumont. Then I'll see
Doctor Tatum again and have him give me a check-up."
During the next few days both my health and iny golf
game did seem to perk up some. On March thirtieth, when we
teed for the final round of the New Orleans Women's Open,
I was only one stroke behind Patty Berg. The best I could
do was a seventy-nine, and she wound up winning the tourna-
ment by four strokes. But at least I was able to hold onto
Then we went to Beaumont. I was really determined to
make a good showing there, because this was my hometown,
and the tournament had been created in my honor the
Babe Zaharias Open. I ran into Doctor Tatum out at the
Beaumont Country Club before the competition started, and
told him I wanted a check-up when it was over. He suggested
an appointment a couple of days after the end of the tourna-
ment, and I said, "I can't wait that long. I have to go on from
here to the next tournament in Phoenix/' So he said to come
and see him the morning after the final round.
I'll never know where I got the energy to play that
tournament. It was three rounds of medal play instead of the
regular four rounds, which was a good thing for me. I doubt
that I could have played a fourth day.
Well, the first two days I put together about the best
pair of rounds I'd shot on the whole winter tour. I took the
lead with 142 two strokes under par and I practically ex-
hausted myself doing it. I was only one stroke ahead of Louise
Suggs at that point, though, and there were several others
who were close enough to have a chance.
The last day it was more of an effort to play than ever.
I wasn't in command of my shots the way I'd been the first
two rounds. I lost three strokes to par on the outgoing nine.
By the time we reached the sixteenth I was four strokes over.
Then I was able to birdie the sixteenth and get one of those
My buddy, Betty Dodd, a girl I encouraged to go into
professional golf, had completed her own round and come
out to root me home. She knew that Louise Suggs had finished
with a 218 total, and Patty Berg with a 219. But I didn't know
I saw Betty Dodd standing there when I came off the
sixteenth green. I asked her, THow do I stand with the field?"
Some golfers don't like to be told. It makes them choke up.
But I always feel that I play better when I know what I have
Betty told me, "All you've got to do is get two pars to
win." That would give me a final score of 217.
Well, I missed my par on the seventeenth hole. I knocked
the ball up on the green about twelve feet from the cup, and
then I went and three-putted. I hit my first putt about four
feet beyond the hole, and missed again coming back.
Now I needed a par on the eighteenth to tie for first place
or a birdie to win. The eighteenth was a par four hole. I
felt as though I was crawling on my hands and knees by
now. I got up there on the tee and pulled myself together and
slugged that ball with all my might. And I hooked it over be-
hind a tree.
One more bad shot, and I was going to blow this tourna-
ment. But I managed to come up with one more good shot. I
took an iron and carried that ball onto the green about six
feet from the pin. Then I knocked in my putt for the birdie I
needed to win.
That hometown gallery went wild. Betty Dodd and Patty
Berg and some of the other girls rushed onto the green and
lifted me up in the air. They practically carried me off to the
clubhouse. Television cameras were going and everything.
I should have been in a mood for celebrating, but I
wasn't. As soon as I could get away I went right up to my
room and stretched out on the bed. Td never felt so com-
pletely played out.
This was on a Sunday night. On Monday morning I had
that appointment with Doctor Tatum. After I finished with
that, George and I were going to take off in the car.
I began packing for both of us Monday morning, the
way I'd always been in the habit of doing. But I was still
fagged out. Even packing seemed too much of an effort. I
said to George, "Honey, will you finish the job while I run
down to see Doctor Tatum?"
A short time later I was in Doctor Tafam's office. He had
me get up on the examination table. He checked on the opera-
tion I'd had the year before, and said, "Wei, everything
seems to be all right."
Then he probed around some more. I could see his face
out of the comer of my eye. All of a sudden he just turned
He didn't say a word, I guess I'd suspected all along
what my trouble was. I said to him, *Tve got cancer,
I've never been one to worry much about my
health, but I'd been feeling so low for several months in 1953
that I couldn't help thinking once in a while that I just might
have cancer. I was pretty sure of it from the way Doctor
Tatum suddenly went white while he was examining me.
But when I asked him straight out if I had cancer, he
said, "Now, Babe, we don't know that. But here's what I
want you to do. I want you to go to Fort Worth and see a
specialist there, a proctologist, and have him make some
I said, "Can't I see him when I come back this way to
play in the Texas Women's Open in October?"
He said, "No, youTI have to go down there today. Ill
phone ahead and make the arrangements/'
This was on a Monday morning, April sixth. George and
I had planned to go from Beaumont to San Antonio, where
Betty Dodd lived with her family. We were going to spend
the night there, and then caravan it with Betty to Phoenix
in time for the start of the Phoenix Women's Open on Thurs-
I came back from Doctor Tatum's office and told George
that we'd have to change our plans and go to Fort Worth,
because I was supposed to see a specialist there. We set off
in the car, and got to the specialist's office in Fort Worth in the
He was Dr. William C. Tatum no relation to the Doctor
Tatum in Beaumont. He did what they call taking some
biopsies for analysis. He said he'd have the results for us
at eleven o'clock Wednesday morning.
We waited it out at the home of R. L. and Bertha Bowen,
the close friends we always visit when we're in Fort Worth.
I phoned Betty Dodd at her home in San Antonio, and ex-
plained why I'd had to come to Fort Worth and wouldn't be
able to make the Phoenix Open after all. I said, "Why don't
you come over for a visit?" she'd become good friends with
the Bowens too and Betty decided she would.
Once on the circuit when I was all fagged out I'd let the
remark slip to Betty, "Maybe I have cancer." I'd said it in a
joking way, but it was enough to get her worried. I'd never
even hinted at such a thing to George, and as we sweated
it out there in Fort Worth, I continued to keep my cancer
fears a secret from him.
It turned out that toward the end George was doing the
same thing with me. Dr. William C. Tatum took those biopsies
on Monday evening, and we wouldn't have the verdict until
Wednesday. So George thought he might as well go down
to the doctor's office on Tuesday and get a routine check-up
The doctor looked him over and told him he was all
right, and then George asked, "How about my wife?"
And the doctor said, *Tm afraid she has cancer ."
Right after that George telephoned me at the Bowens.
"Honey," he says, "while I'm downtown I think I'll see a
couple of movies. You know how I always like to go to picture
shows, and you don't. Ill get myself a bite for supper, and see
you later in the evening."
I didn't find it out until long after, but George was so
upset by what the doctor had told him that he wanted time to
pull himself together before he came back and faced me.
George went to about three picture shows in a row, hardly
noticing what was on the screen. He finally got back to the
house a little before bedtime.
We turned in, and I just couldn't get to sleep. Once in
a while I'd light a cigarette. Finally George sat up and said,
"You're not sleeping."
I said, "Yes, and neither are you."
George went to the kitchen and made us a pot of coffee.
We talked for a while, and then we did get to sleep. We woke
up in plenty of time to make our eleven o'clock appointment
with Dr. William C. Tatum.
We got to his reception room right on the dot, and his
wife, who acted as his secretary, took us in to see him, and
seated us side by side.
The doctor didn't do any hemming or hawing. "Babe," he
said, "you've got cancer/' I thought I was prepared for it, but
that report just hit me like a thunderbolt. George too. His
hand shot out and grabbed mine.
The doctor went straight on talking, I suppose to get us
started right in thinking about what could be done. He said
my cancer was in the rectum, and that I needed a colostomy.
He brought out pictures and diagrams to show us what kind
of operation that was how they'd cut off part of the lower
intestine, and reroute it, and make a new outlet in the left side
of the abdomen.
I guess he talked to us there for about two hours. He
told me I'd be able to play golf again after the operation, al-
though probably not tournament golf. He said to go ahead
and get other medical opinions if we wanted.
We left his office, and I was crying when we went down
on the elevator. George was all distressed. He had never seen
me cry before, and I don't believe he saw me do it any more
after that. We got back to Bowens, and I told Bertha the
news, and she just flew up in the air. She started bawling,
and phoned her husband, "R* L., come home quick! The worst
I went off by myself for a while and lay on a bed, think-
ing, "What in the world have I done wrong in my life to
deserve this?" I'd always tried to do right, and help other
people. I'd played in I don't know how many benefits for
the American Cancer Society. I kept saying to myself, "God,
why did I have to have this? Why does anybody have to have
it?" But my idea has always been that whatever God in-
tended for me in this life, I'd go along with.
George and all the rest of them were out there crying.
Finally George settled down long enough to call Doctor
Tatum in Beaumont, and Doctor Tatum said to come on back
there. We decided to stop overnight on the way with my
brother Louis and his wife Thelma in Newton, Texas they
have an electrical business there.
We got ready to leave the Bowens. It didn't take much
preparation, because we'd hardly unpacked the car at all
since we got there. I get plenty of golf supplies, since I'm
under contract to a sporting-goods company, and every time
we visited the Bowens, I used to give R. L. some of my prac-
This time when we got out to the car, I saw my golf
clubs sitting in it, and that was one of the few moments I
let myself give in to despair. I grabbed the bag and handed it
to R. L. and said, "Here! I want you to have these, because
I won't be needing them any more/'
George snatched the bag and said, "No, honey, nol
You'll play again!"
We had a nightmare trip 280 miles to my brother's house
in Newton. George was driving, and he had to stop the car
at times because he couldn't see through his tears. George is
very sentimental. You can touch him easy. I can say the
wrong thing to George sometimes, not thinking, and hell feel
bad about it.
We talked and we planned. I was thinking about my golf
clubs, and my cocker spaniels. I was thinking about George
more than anything else, of course. And I was thinking about
my sisters and brothers and my good friends all the people
I'd have to leave if this cancer had gone too far. The one
thing that made me feel a little better was that Doctor Tatum
in Fort Worth had said, "You have caught your cancer very
early." I had No. 3 type. No. 4 is the fastest growing, and
No. 3 is next, and No. 2 and No. 1 are not so severe.
So we got to my brother's house, and there were more
tears. Louis broke down. He and I had always been so close,
ever since we were youngsters. He kept saying, "Babe did
nothing but good. Why couldn't this have happened to me,
or to somebody else beside her?"
Louis and Thelma got their family doctor, Dr. White-
cloud, to come over. He talked to me about what a colostomy
was, and gave me all the best answers to boost my morale.
Then he had George and me take some sleeping pills, so
wed get a good night's rest.
We went on the next morning to Beaumont. Somehow a
rumor had already leaked out of Fort Worth that I had cancer,
and the press was waiting for us outside Doctor Tatum's
office. I went on into the office. George fended off the re-
porters for a while and then came in too. Both of us always
believe in co-operating with the press, but naturally George
didn't feel like giving out the cancer story just then.
Doctor Tatum put me right into the Hotel Dieu, the
hospital where f d had my hernia operation the year before.
I wanted my same room back, No. 201, and they were able to
give it to me after a couple of days. That's a Catholic hospital.
I'm not a Catholic myself, but Sister Mary Daniels and the
other nuns were just wonderful to me both times I was in
there. I couldn't have asked for finer treatment.
Meanwhile we'd gotten in touch with Betty Dodd and
given her the news. She'd missed connections with us in Fort
Worth she'd been in an auto accident on her way there
but I finally got hold of her on the phone and said, "Well,
Betty, iVe got cancer. I have to have a 'costom/ or some-
thing like that." I couldn't even pronounce the word yet.
Betty said, "You mean a colostomy! I know what that
is. I know a woman who has one."
Betty is a Texas girl, the daughter of a retired Army
general. She's a fine young golfer. I first got to know her
when she was playing the golf circuit as an amateur in 1950.
I worked with her some, the way veteran golfers used to
work with me when I was starting out. Eventually I helped
get her started as a professional. She's like a daughter to me.
George and I see a lot of her both on the circuit and during
the off season. Sometimes she gets out her guitar, and I get
my harmonica, and we play some of that real Southern-style
Well, Betty went on in to Fort Worth to see the Bowens,
and then came up to Beaumont. George had a business deal
hanging fire in Denver. He was negotiating the sale of the
hotel he owned there. At the hospital they weren't going to
do anything with me for a few days but take x-rays and stuff.
I told George to go ahead and make a quick run out to Den-
ver, now that Betty was on hand to keep me company. Betty
got them to put a cot right in my room for her. She stayed
there all the way through.
The first thing that happened when I got in the hospital,
Sister Daniels walked into the room to greet me and said,
"Here's a hospital cocktail for you." It was castor oil! I hadn't
taken that since I was a kid. But I needed stuff like that to
get me in shape for the x-rays. During one stretch of twenty-
four hours they were x-raying me from head to foot. I couldn't
have any food or anything during that time.
George had told Doctor Tatum, "Get Babe the finest
surgeon. I don't care what it costs. Anything to get her weU."
And Doctor Tatum had said, "George, we don't have to
go very far to find the right man. We've got him down here in
Galveston, at the John Sealy Hospital of the University of
Texas medical school.*
That was Dr. "Robert Moore. He agreed to do the opera-
tion. The first time lie caine to see me in my room, he put out
his hand and said, "Babe, I certainly hate to meet you under
I said, "Doctor Moore, under these circumstances I'm
tickled pink to meet you! I know IVe got the best. 3 "
A couple of days after I entered the hospital, the story
was out in the newspapers that I was going to be operated on
for what they called "a serious malignancy." About this time
George left on his Denver trip, and the impression got around
that he was scouring the country for a surgeon to perform the
operation. Some important friends of ours called George up
and offered to help. One of them was Walter Winchell, who
has made a specialty of the fight against cancer. But when
George told him that we already had Doctor Moore lined up,
Walter WincheU said that we couldn't have found a better
man for the job. Then he wired me at the hospital:
JUST SPOKE TO GEORGE ON THE PHONE AND I
WANTED TO LET YOU KNOW HOW UNHAPPY I AM
OVER YOUR ILLNESS BUT BABE YOU ARE GOING TO
BE OKAY BECAUSE THE MEN IN CHARGE OF YOU
ARE THE VERY BEST I HAVE NEVER FORGOTTEN
HOW MUCH YOU DID TO HELP SO MANY OTHER
STRICKEN PEOPLE THROUGH THE RUNYON FUND.
Telegrams were coming in from all over. There was a
wire from Augusta, Georgia, where the Masters Tournament
was going on, reading, BEST OF LUCK AND LOVE FROM
YOUR SWEETHEARTS IN THE PRESS STY. It had forty-
one names signed to it. There was one signed, THE BOYS
FROM THE PHILA PHILLIES, and another with the sig-
nature, LOU BOUDREAU, BILL MCKECHNIE, DEL
BAKER AND THE BOSTON RED SOX.
I heard from Bobby Jones and Ed Sullivan and Fred
Waring. Pepper Martin wired me, and Clark Griffith, and
Del Webb. There were so many wonderful people who sent
me messages of encouragement men and women both in
and out of the sports world. Those messages were all equally
appreciated, and I just wish I had space to list every one
The telephone was banging away too. Bob Hope called,
and Grantland Rice, and Mickey Rooney. There'd be one
party on the line, and a couple more waiting to get on.
The room filled up with flowers until I told the nuns to
give them to patients that didn't have any. And the mail kept
building up. First they were bringing me letters by the hand-
ful. Then they brought it in a basket. Finally they had to use
a big wicker clothes hamper to carry in all the mail.
Betty or George would open the letters as they came IDU
I read a lot of them myself before surgery. But eventually the
mail got ahead of us. Some of it was from overseas. I must
have received about 20,000 letters from the public while I
was in there. I haven't been able to acknowledge them all
to this day, although I did ask the press to thank the people
for me. It really bucked me up to know that I had so many
folks all over the world pulling for me.
Some were well-meaning people who told me not to get
operated on. They had "cures"' they wanted me to take in-
stead. Go here, go there, go to this person. Take the grape
diet. I got herbs from South Africa. From Australia they
wanted to send me herbs. I got holy water, and every kind
of thing you can imagine.
An occasional person wasn't satisfied just to write me a
letter. One night I walked out of my room to get a little
exercise, and a woman practically pounced on me in the
corridor. She was a stranger who had come into the hospital
looking for me. She gave me a long harangue about how God
had sent her to save me, and now my cancer would be cured
without any operation. She was very sincere about it.
One man called me on the phone and began talking
about how the mineral springs at Mineral Wells, Texas, would
fix me up. He wanted to come and tell me about it. I finally
turned the phone over to Betty Dodd, and after a few more
minutes she convinced him that no callers were being ad-
mitted to my room.
My sister Lillie was with us at the time. She lives in
Beaumont she's Mrs. O. B. Grimes. When she got home that
night, here was this same fellow camped at her house. He
was an Indian a great huge fellow, Lillie told us later. She
was scared to death. Since he couldn't get in to see me at
the hospital, he'd come to try and sell Babe's sister on the
mineral springs idea. It was quite a while before Lillie could
get rid of him.
Lillie was at the hospital constantly. All my brothers and
sisters were there. I'm mighty fond and proud of each one of
them. They're all married and have children. I've told you
about Lillie in Beaumont, and my brother Louis in Newton,
Texas, and my sister Dora out in Arizona. Esther Nancy is
Mrs. Philip Koth now. She lives in Santa Monica, California,
where her husband is president o a gas company. My brother
Ola is still in Texas, and so is my youngest brother, Arthur,
who lives in Baytown.
Well, the doctors spent several days there on the x-rays
and tests, and found out that my cancer was localized. There
was no trace of it anywhere else in my body. In a cancer
case that's good news, but I couldn't do too much cheering,
because 1 still didn't like the idea of a colostomy. I didn't want
my body changed permanently like that. Sometimes they can
perform a temporary operation instead, and then resect and
reconnect the intestine later. I kept hoping they could do
that with my cancer.
But I knew that whichever way it worked out, the opera-
tion had to be done. In a room across the hall from me there
was another patient who didn't want a colostomy, a nun
called Sister Tarsisis. I believe that's how the name is spelled.
She'd been there a year and a half, and wasted away to almost
nothing, and she was still refusing to have the operation. They
had me talk to her, and George too. They thought it might
help her to know somebody who was going through with it.
And she was getting to where she was willing to consider
After they finished with the x-rays, they were another
few days putting me in shape for surgery. I was getting a
lot of pills. I wasn't eating anything at all, because they had
to have the intestines clear when they operated. They were
feeding me through the veins. It was good having Betty in
the room with me at night, so I could talk to someone when
I felt like it, because I sure wasn't doing much sleeping.
Then the day came. It was Friday, April seventeenth*
That afternoon I was going into the operating room.
The morning of April seventeenth, they began
coming in and giving me preliminary shots and everything to
get me ready for surgery in the afternoon. Sister Daniels told
me that the nuns were going to have a novena that day and
pray for a successful operation and no permanent colostomy.
Betty Dodd went in the chapel for a novena herself.
Everybody was encouraging me. I said, "Don't worry.
I'm all right. Ill just leave everything in the hands of God."
I had been to God, I guess, more than I ever had before
in my life. I have never been what you'd call a real church-
going Christian, but I've always said my prayers that I learned
when I was a little kid, and I still say the same prayers today.
But when you get sick, God is the one you go to. He gives
you the spiritual muscle that you need.
One of the last things I did before the operation was to
tell George, "Honey, I want you to go downstairs and get my
golf clubs and put them right in the corner of my room, be-
cause I'm going to use them again. I want to look at them
and I want to feel that they're there when I come out of the
operating room." So he did, and those clubs stayed in that
corner as long as I was in the hospital.
I was supposed to go up to surgery at one o'clock, but
there was some hold-up there, so it was around two o'clock
when they wheeled me out of my room. Sister Tarsisis across
the way had asked to be allowed to see me before I left, so
I had them stop at her doorway. I waved to her and called,
"Sister Tarsisis, I'm going up now. I'll be seeing you in a little
George went up in the elevator with me to the fourth
floor, where surgery was. There were reporters and photogra-
phers waiting in the corridor. George said, "Don't take any
I said, "All right, honey, we don't have to have any pic-
tures." But I raised myself up. Bill Scurlock was there Tiny
Scurlock. He's a Beaumont sportswriter. He's known me since
I was a kid in school. He asked me if I had any statement I
wanted to make, and I said, "Tiny, tell everybody to pray
double hard for me, and I'll be back. And tell people to give
their money to the Cancer Fund instead of sending me
George leaned down and gave me a last little pep talk
and a kiss. Then they wheeled me into surgery. They were go
ing to lift me onto the operating table, but I told them, Til
get on the table myself."
There must have been ten or twelve people there
doctors and nurses and so forth. I could hear them talking,
and sense people moving around. Doctor Moore came in. He
said, "It's going to be a tough round today/' He was always
talking to me like that. I said, "Yeah, but maybe we'll make a
He told me, "You've got to do one more thing for me.
You've got to swallow this tube for me." And I did. Then
one of the nuns doubled me up so they could give me a
spinal anesthetic. I could hear the doctors talking faintly for
a moment, and then I didn't know another thing.
They had to do a permanent colostorny. I was on the
table almost four hours. I opened my eyes coming back down
in the elevator. They'd given me some transfusions to keep my
strength up during the operation. When the elevator doors
opened, George rushed up and took charge of the last bottle
I said, "Colostomy, honey? 7 *
He said, "Yes. It's all right." Then I closed my eyes and
went to sleep again.
Most of what I know about the next fourteen or fifteen
days is things George and Betty told me later. I was only
half -conscious the first five or six days. There was a tube down
my nose and needles in my arms. And they kept giving me
shots because I had so much pain.
The first twenty-four hours after a major operation they
keep turning you in bed, so the blood will circulate freely
and no clots will form. I had two night nurses, and Betty
Dodd was there to help them, but It's not easy to move
dead weight. And they didn't want to jerk me around too
Betty thought she'd try something to make the turning
easier on me and everybody else. I seemed to be unconscious,
but she leaned down and said, "Come on, Babe, raise yourself
up a bit."
Betty says that I arched up like a cat on my shoulders and
feet, so that she had to tell me, "For crying out loud, not that
far! You'll wreck all the stitches."
Sometimes I'd start to jerk my arms, and the needles
that were stuck in there for the intravenous feeding would
come out. But Betty found she could stop that by grabbing
my hand and telling me not to pull. She says that eventually
all she had to do was just touch my finger.
I didn't know exactly where I was or what I was saying.
I'd think I was smoking, and I'd say, "Would you put this
out?" They'd say, "Put what out?", and I'd answer, "Put out
this cigarette for me."
Or I'd be telling everybody to be quiet I thought I was
back in the auditorium in school. No talking was allowed
Everything was pretty much of a blur for a while, but I
do remember that the tube down my nose kept bothering
me. It went all the way down to my stomach, but I thought
it was just stuck in my throat. My throat felt raw and blis-
tered. I couldn't swallow. To relieve the discomfort, I'd lift
that tube out a little and prop it against my nose. Then when
I fell asleep it would drop back and hit me in the same place
About the fifth or sixth day Doctor Moore came in and
said, "We're going to fix you np today." He meant that they
were going to cauterize me where I'd had the colostomy.
I said, "Are you going to take this tube out of my nose,
too?" He said, "Yes, we'll take that out/' The cauterizing was
no fun, but it sure was a relief to get rid of that tube.
I wasn't sleeping well at night, even with all the drugs
and pain-killers they were giving me. After I had breakfast in
the morning, and they gave me nay bath, then I could realy
sleep for a while.
George told me that one day he was in the room while
I was dozing, and I began playing golf in my sleep. He says
he knew it by the way I was moving my hands and my feet,
and twisting my head back and forth. When I finally opened
my eyes, he said, "Did you have a nice round, honey? I saw
you hit that last drive/'
I think it was the day after the tube came out of my nose
that they wanted me to get up and try to walk, which of
course they have you do very early after operations nowadays.
And I couldn't even sit up. But they propped me on the edge
of the bed, and set me on my feet. I tried to take a step and
then they had to catch me before I fell. The next time it was
a little better, though, and it got better each time after that.
Lying in bed, I'd keep looking at those golf clubs in the
corner. Then I'd look at my arms, and look at my legs. They
were nothing but bone. I'd lost a lot of weight, and it was
mostly muscle weight. I said to myself, "If I can exercise my
arms and legs while I'm here in bed, then Til probably come
along faster when I'm on my feet again."
So I started raising one leg up in the air, and then the
other. I was working my muscles and pushing them working
my arms and my legs. One of those early days I got out of
bed by myself and walked over to the golf clubs. I picked out
a four wood and took my grip on It. And it felt real good. Then
I went out in the hall with my golf club, but I felt a little weak
at this point, so I got back in bed.
They were having a party one day for graduating nurses.
Sister Daniels asked Betty to come with her guitar and me
with my harmonica. I went as far as the door to the party, and
then they had to escort me back to my room.
But I was getting stronger all the time. Along around the
fifteenth or sixteenth day, I said it would be all right for the
newsreel and television men to come in with their cameras.
They were there three or four hours with those floodlights.
I still wasn't on my feet very much at this stage, so I posed in
bed for them. I was setting my hair, after just having washed
it. I knew that it would encourage other cancer patients if
they saw me getting well, I wanted the public to know I
was all right.
I got to where I was talcing walks in the corridors. All
the time I was walking I was doing exercises with my arms
and my legs. Then Sister Daniels said to me, "Babe, let's go
visit some of the other patients. They want to meet you.**
We covered just about that whole hospital before I left.
I started getting out of the hospital to ride in the auto-
mobile with George and Betty. We took real short drives at
first, and then longer ones. The hospital was on the Gulf
shore, and I began sitting out for an hour at a time to watch
the boat races.
Another thing that happened, Sister Tarsisis went
through with her colostomy. She was able to have hers re-
sected and reconnected later on. I saw her a couple of years
afterward, and she was doing fine. Her weight was up to
normal, and she was back on the job again,
There was one last thing. After helping to nurse me for
weeks, what should Betty Dodd do but come down with a
hernia attack like the one I'd had the year before. They per-
suaded her to get it fixed up right away, and she had an
operation. So my last week in the hospital, she was the new
patient in our room, and I was helping her out a little bit.
My brother Louis and his wife Thelma had told me that
when I got out of the hospital,, they wanted me to come to
their place in Newton to convalesce. They invited George
and Betty, too. On May twenty-second, forty-three days from
the time I went into the hospital, I was discharged. I was
saying good-by to all the sisters. A lot of them were crying,
and I was sort of wet-eyed myself.
Louis and Thelma had their automobile waiting outside
the hospital They'd rigged up a bed in the back of the car
for me, and I lay there all the way to Newton. We got to the
house, and the television cameramen showed up again.
Louis and Thelma wanted to fatten me up. What spreads
they put on meat balls, corn bread, black-eyed peas> string
beans. But even with the enormous meals they served, I
couldn't seem to gain any weight at first. Later on I was sorry
that I'd tried so hard to put the weight on. I not only gained
back what I'd lost, but went ten pounds over.
I just took it easy at my brother's house. I'd go out in
the back yard and sit, and then I'd come in and lie down.
It tires you to sit very long when you first come out of the
hospital. I was knitting socks and everything, but I wanted
something else to do. A friend of mine sent me a painting
set, so I went out in the back yard and started to paint. I
said, "I'm going to be like Grandma Moses, or Ike/' I got one
pretty nice scene down on canvas, although I didn't have
enough time to really finish it off.
We went from Newton to Betty's family's house in San
Antonio for a little while. We got back home to Tampa around
the middle of June. I called up Doctor Moore and Doctor
Tatum and said, "Can I start practicing golf?", and they said,
"Yes, by all means. You could have started in pitching and
putting almost from the time you got home." So NBC tele-
vision came down wanting to take some film, and I had my
shorts on, and I said, "Well, I'll just go out and pitch a few."
Each day I did a bit more. The first time I played a hole
at the Tampa Golf Club, I used a four iron instead of a
driver, and when I finished the hole, I rode back in our little
electric cart. The next day I played a hole and a half, then
walked back. The day after that I went two holes.
Meanwhile George had gone out to Denver to wind up
the deal on his hotel. He picked up a paper one day and saw
an item, BABE ZAHARIAS PLAYS NINE HOLES. He called
up all concerned. I told him, "Yeah, I went nine holes. And
it felt pretty good. I shot a thirty-seven."
George was even more worried a short time later when
I told him I was going to enter the Tarn o' Shanter "All-
American" at the end of July. But the doctors said this was
all right. In fact, they told both George and Betty Dodd to
encourage me on playing golf, and on getting out in public
again. They said the biggest problem with colostomy patients
was to get them back into normal living. They're sometimes
too self-conscious about their changed condition to want to
go anywhere or do anything.
Well, a colostomy is a big change, but the body can ad-
just to it. It's a wonderful thing the way the human body will
correct itself if you give it a chance.
Anyway, on July thirty-first, about three-and-a-half
months after the operation, I put myself to the test at the Tarn
o* Shanter Country Club in Niles, Illinois. They had prom-
ised in advance to pair Betty Dodd with me. She was familiar
with my condition, and could step in and help if I had any
I got up there on the first tee with a big crowd of people
watching ine. The question in everybody's mind, and in my
mind too, was, "Is Babe still capable of tournament golf?*
To me, shooting tournament golf doesn't just mean getting a
respectable score and finishing up among the leaders . It
means being able to win. That's the standard the public has
come to judge me by. It's the standard I set for myself. I
wouldn't want it to be any other way,
Well, I hit that opening drive, and it sailed 250 yards
straight down the middle. Those people screamed as if it was
a football game. But that was about the end of my good golf
for a while. I could still bang out some long ones, but I didn't
seem to have the control and the touch that you need, es-
pecially on the short game.
I told you back at the start of this book how at the sixth
tee in the third round, I got so discouraged that I had a little
emotional breakdown. Then I finally began to pull my game
together. I finished that round with a seventy-eight, after
an eighty-two and an eighty-five the two previous days.
On the fourth day I shot an eighty. But some of the con-
testants got rained out, and they decided to wash out the
whole day, and have everybody start the round over again
the next day. So I went out there for the fifth day in a row
to shoot eighteen holes, and this time I had an eighty-four,
I wound up down in fifteenth place in the "All-American."
Only two days later I came back and played in the sec-
ond Tarn o' Shanter tournament, the "World Championship/*
and after three-and-a-half rounds I was ahead. Then I ran out
of gas and took forty-three strokes to get around the last
nine holes. My back was killing me, and it was an effort to
swing the club, I sat down between shots and everything to
rest, but it was no use. Patty Berg picked up seven strokes on
the back nine to win the tournament with a 300 score. Louise
Suggs was second with 303. I wound up third with 304.
It was disappointing to lose out at the end, and yet I
was encouraged that I could stay up there as long as I did
that soon after the operation. My performance brought me a
great many inspiring letters. Those letters sort of built up my
determination to continue in golf. It meant a lot to know that
so many people were rooting for me in my comeback.
The only other tournament I entered in 1953 was the
Texas Women's Open in October. Betsy Rawls put me out
in the quarterfinals. Incidentally, in spite of having the cancer
operation and missing a lot of tournaments that year, I still
wound up No. 6 on the list of money-winners in women's
golf for 1953, with a total of $6345 in prize money.
In January of 1954 I was back on the tour. I started out
by placing seventh in the Tampa Women's Open. Then at
St. Petersburg I tied for first place with Beverly Hanson. We
had a sudden-death playoff, and she outlasted me. She won it
on the third extra hole.
So the tour moved to Miami Beach on February eight-
eenth for the Serbia Women's Open. At this point ten months
had gone by since my operation. People were beginning to
ask each other whether I'd ever be capable of winning tourna-
ments again. And I was asking myself the same thing.
In the Serbia Women's Open tournament In
February of 1954, 1 found myself battling for first place right
down to the wire with Patty Berg. We both were two strokes
under women's par for the first three rounds with scores of
220. On the outgoing nine holes the last day, we both hit par
on the nose.
I began tiring again on the back nine, but for every hole
where I slipped over par, there was another where I made
It up with a birdie. I came up to the last tee still even with
par for that day and needing one more par to beat out
The last hole was a long one a par five. And I hit my
drive way over in the palm trees. I was in a real tough spot
There were palm leaves hanging down almost to the ground
in front of me, and then there was a trap beyond them. I saw
that I'd have to hit the ball right into those palm leaves if
I was going to carry over the trap and get some distance.
I took a four-iron and swung, and that shot came off
exactly as I planned. It busted a hole right through the palm
leaves and carried to within a nine-iron of the green. It
landed on a sandy part of the fairway. Then I played a three-
quarter shot with my nine-iron Tve never studied a shot
more carefully and blasted the ball onto the green. I got
down in two putts all right to make my par and win my first
tournament since the cancer operation. And that was just
about my biggest thrill in sports.
It was around this time that I got to go to the White
House and see President and Mrs. Eisenhower. They're such
nice people. I went up there for a ceremony to open the
annual Cancer Crusade. There was a connection rigged up
from the White House to Times Square in New York. We
were to press a button in the White House and it would light
up a big electric sign in Times Square.
I was presented to Mrs. Eisenhower, and I said, "Mrs.
Eisenhower, I've fixed up my bangs tonight so I can be right
in unison with you."
She said, "Oh, but your bangs look so nicely curled, and
mine never do/*
When Ike was about to enter the room, they announced,
"Mr. President!" We all stood at attention while he came in.
He shook hands with me, and I said, "How do you do,
Mr. President ."
He said, "How do you do, Mrs. Zaharias." Then he
dropped Ms head and pretended to whisper. "I'll see you
later, Babe/' he said. "I want to talk to you about this game
And we did talk golf after the picture-taking and every-
thing was over. I've heard, and I can believe, that he could
be a real fine golfer if he had more time for it. He said we'd
have to have a game together, and I hope things will work out
so I can play golf with Ike some day.
I went on to have a pretty good tournament year in 1954
after winning that Serbin Women's Open in February. From
there on I was in the first three just about every time out.
A real high spot for me was the National Women's Open,
which I'd missed playing in for two straight years on account
of my operations.
I'd won the National Capital Women's Open in Wash-
ington on May sixteenth, and I didn't enter any more tourna-
ments after that until the Open, which was being held on
June thirtieth at the Salem Country Club in Peabody, Massa-
chusetts. That's a real golf course 6393 yards long, with a
men's par of seventy-two.
For a while before that tournament George and Betty
Dodd and I visited at the home of one of my best golfing
friends, Mrs. Peggy Kirk Bell. Peggy and her husband live in
Findlay, Ohio. I was out playing golf every day and getting
myself in good shape.
George and I left ahead of the others and drove up to
the Salem Country Club a few days before the start of the
Open. I practiced the course about three days in a row, and
then rested the last day. The schedule called for eighteen
holes on Thursday and eighteen on Friday, then thirty-six
holes on Saturday. Having to play those two final rounds in
a single day was my only worry.
The length of the course turned out to be too much for
a majority of the girls. Most of them couldn't come close to
the men's par of seventy-two. I jumped right into the lead
with a seventy-two the first day, and I widened it in every
round after that. My second-round score was seventy-one.
I had a seventy-three the last morning. In the afternoon
fatigue finally began to set in. I was under par for thirteen
holes, then I had only one par the rest of the way. But I still
shot seventy-five for the round and 291 for the tournament.
Betty Hicks in second place was twelve strokes back
It's a funny thing, but as tired as I was playing out that
last round, I didn't feel tired at all once I came off the course
and got in the shower. I was too happy and thrilled over the
way I'd come back to win the biggest title in women's golf.
All during that 1954 National Women's Open the re-
porters did everything they could to make things easy for
me. Instead of trying to get separate stories from me, they
all got together at the end of the day and had me come in for
a press conference, and after ten or fifteen minutes of ques-
tions I was through.
The reporters and photographers always have been about
the best friends I've got. Some athletes complain about the
press. Not me. When those boys want a story, I know they're
working on a job, and if I can make their job easier for them,
I'm going to do it. If it's a nice story, and a clean story, then
I'm going to help them all I can.
The sportswriters who participate in the annual Associ-
ated Press polls voted me the No. 1 woman athlete for the
sixth time in 1954. In addition to winning the National
Women's Open by twelve strokes, I also won the Tarn o*
Shanter "All-American" a month later by eight strokes with
a score of 294. That was only one stroke above my own
seventy-two-hole women's record for the course.
I tried for the Tarn o' Shanter "World Championship"
too, but I was fourth in that with 304. Louise Suggs won it
with 298. Those two tournaments together just got me. That
was my one problem in golf after the cancer operation. I
didn't have quite as much stamina as I used to. I couldn't
always stay strong through four full rounds, especially if I
tried to keep going in tournament after tournament.
After the "World" I went over to a tournament in
Wichita, Kansas, and didn't play well. Next I competed in
Ardmore, Oklahoma. I didn't play well there either, but there
was one nice thing that I remember. They gave me a palomino
horse named Superman. I rode him up on the eighteenth
green at the presentation. That old horse just pranced up
there. They announced on the microphone, "Here comes
Superman, ridden by Superwoman!" I have him down at the
Fort Worth Horse Shoe Club today.
I sort of petered out in the last part of 1954. Still, I won a
total of $14,452 in prize money, which left me second on
the list for the year.
All the while I was doing a lot of things besides compet-
ing for golf prizes. That goes back to a promise I made in
my prayers when I was in the hospital waiting for my cancer
operation. I promised God that if He made me well, I'd do
everything in my power when I got out to help the fight
And when I did get out, I remembered that promise and
said yes to everything. I went out to Seattle to open a Babe
Didrikson Zaharias chapter of the American Cancer Society.
I kept making trips for personal appearances, and did radio
and television spots for the American Cancer Society and the
Damon Rimyon Foundation. Wherever I went for a tourna-
ment, I generally did some cancer work there, A priest or
somebody would ask nie to visit cancer patients he knew, and
try to raise their spirits, and I was glad to do it.
But toward the end of 1954 I had to halfway break my
promise to God and cut down on my cancer work some, be-
cause it was wearing me down, along with all the other
things I had to do. And I've gotten to when I like to spend
more time at home. Housework has always been a treat to me,
which is why IVe never had a full-time maid. I've spent so
much of my life away on the road that when I get home I'm
just aching to put my hands in the dishwasher, and make up
the beds, and vacuum the carpets.
Until 1955 we lived in a nice little converted caddy house
right on the grounds of our Tampa Golf & Country Club. We
sold the club in 1954, but the new owner said to take our time
moving out. We finally built a new home of our own, and
moved into it in March of 1955. It's only a short distance
from the other house, on a pond at the edge of the golf
We sort of splurged on that house, but we think it's
worth it. We spent what it cost to get everything we wanted.
I'd been dreaming of building a home since I was a little
girl. And traveling around the way I have all these years, and
visiting different people, I had a lot of ideas stored up about
what Td like in my "dream house/* Td never really had a
chance to try my ideas out. At the other places weVe lived
in Los Angeles, Denver, Sky Crest we took houses that
were already built.
Once George gave the go-ahead on our new Tampa
home, I got busy with the plans. I'd take along books on
home decoration on my trips. I had my pad and ruler and
pencil, and I started getting my design ideas down on paper.
During one plane ride I did the kitchen, with the dinette set
off by wrought-iron work and everything. On another trip I
mapped out the patio. The master bathroom was my design,
with its two wash stands, and the master bedroom, with its
louvred doors. And I marked in all the windows, and the
types I wanted. I designed just about everything in the house.
The architects would take my drawings and work out the
I watched that house go up all through the different
stages of building. Sometimes I'd get in there and drive nails
with the carpenters. I did some of the mortar work out on
the patio. I worked with the electricians and all.
I planned everything big and roomy, for George's com-
fort. He's a big man. George has had a physical problem too.
In 1954 he developed a diabetic condition. For a time he had
to take insulin. He got off that after a while, but ever since,
he's had to regulate his diet very carefully.
You couldn't call our new place one certain type of house.
It's a blend of different things. It's one story, which sounds
like a ranch house, but it's really more of a traditional house.
The bedrooms are colonial and Early American, with a little
Pennsylvania Dutch at the windows. The living room is a
country-squire drawing room. The kitchen is sort of California
ranch, with a mixture of Arizona ranch.
As for golf, the Tampa Golf & Country Club course is
practically our back yard. Most of the girls on the tournament
circuit go out and play golf just about every day. I always
used to do that myself, but what with one thing and another,
I haven't been able to practice too regularly the past few
I've been experimenting a little bit, though. Tve realized
that I am getting older, and that the time was coming for
me to change over from a bashing type of game to a smoother
type of game. When you begin to lose some of your power,
then you have to develop more finesse. You have to change
your style a little.
I've sometimes thought that my biggest trouble in golf
was knowing so many different ways to play shots. I mean,
I can hit low shots or fade shots or push shots or slices or
hooks or whatever I want. At times I've felt that I might be
better off if I knew just one way to hit the ball, and always
played it straightaway.
It's hard to keep your golf game in the groove if you
aren't getting steady practice. And then there's another way
in which too many distractions can reduce your effectiveness
as a tournament player. I'm talking about the mental side of
the game the mental concentration you need for big-time
Here's what I mean. When I'm playing in a tournament,
and I'm feeling sharp and rested, then every time I get set
to play a shot, I can see a certain spot out there where I want
to hit the ball I know what part of the fairway I want to reach
to give myself an easy approach to the green, and that sort
But when I've been thinking about too many other things
besides golf, and my mind isn't clear and easy out there, then
I don't plan my shots the way you should. I don't see the one
right place where the ball should go. I'm not alert to the
different possibilities o the situation. I'm just keeping the
ball in play.
You wont often win anything when your mind is in that
state. But then, winning doesn't always seem as important
to me now as it did when I was younger. I guess I've mel-
lowed down. It used to just kill me to get beat. I wanted to
win everything I played. But I've been at the top in sports
for a quarter of a century, starting with when I first made the
women's Ail-American basketball team as a young kid in
1930. And I've been putting my golf shoes on and taking them
off for a long time. You can get a little tired of that. At times
I feel Td rather just ride around the course in my electric
cart, or sit on the clubhouse porch, and let the rest of the
girls fight it out.
People would say to me when I came back to the tourna-
ment circuit after my cancer operation, "Why don't you just
take life easy?" My doctors would tell me not to drive myself
so hard. George would say, "YouVe proved everything. You
don't have to prove anything more/*
There are several reasons why I didn't retire from golf
after that 1953 cancer business and still don't intend to
retire, in spite of my 1955 ailments. One reason is that
every time I get out and play well in a golf tournament., it
seems to buck up people with the same cancer trouble I had.
I can tell that from the letters I keep getting. I just wish I
could find the time to acknowledge all those letters per-
sonally. With the ones from colostomy patients, IVe tried at
least to send them a form I've made up that answers the most
important questions about colostomies. It's a widespread
problem there are something like 10,000 colostomy opera-
tions performed every year, according to the American Can-
Another reason why I've kept coming back to the golf
circuit is that I helped start the Ladies' Professional Golf
Association, and I want to help it keep on growing. The
Ladies' PGA has been building up right along in tournaments
and purses and good players. At first there were just six or
seven of us. Now we've got about twenty-five or thirty girls
who are very fine golfers. I know the tournaments draw bet-
ter when all of us are in there than when some of us aren't.
Finally, there's this. Since I began having my medical
troubles, any time I've played two or three tournaments in a
row without winning, people have started saying, "What's the
matter with Babe? Is she through?" And then I get back to
where I don't want to get beat. I get that old desire to win.
I want to go out and prove all over again that I'm still a
This sometimes leads to my overdoing things. It was like
that on the winter tour in 1955. 1 started off by winning the
Tampa Women's Open in January, although I was tiring at
the end. I lost four strokes to par on the last five holes, and
just did hang on to first place with a 298 total, one stroke
ahead of Louise Suggs.
Then I didn't win my next couple of tournaments. At
Sarasota in February I didn't even finish. I shot a seventy-
nine the first day on that little old course. I just couldn't make
myself play golf. I had a virus. I was taking penicillin and
I said to George, "Instead of letting myself down, and
letting the public down, by trying to play when I can't play,
I'm going to get out of here." So I withdrew after that first
round. And the reporters were buzzing around George, won-
dering whether I was seriously sick*
I went home to Tampa to rest up, but what with our new
house being in the final stages, and with trying to keep up
my side activities, I didn't rest as well as I should have. I
came back for the Titleholders tournament at Augusta in
the middle of March, and didn't play too well in that. At the
finish I was tied for sixth place,
My second-year cancer check-up was due in Beaumont
on April eleventh. I was feeling so draggy that I decided to
have a general check-up before the cancer one. The doctor
said I was rundown, and on the anemic side. He told me I
should take a real vacation.
So I went with Betty Dodd and her sister Peggy to a
cabin on the Gulf coast of Texas. This was around the end
of March. We fished and loafed and had a wonderful time.
But there was one unlucky thing that happened. One day we
got our car stuck in the sand. The three of us jacked it up and
got it out of there. We started up the car and went right
back in the sand. So we had to get it out all over again.
Well, with the strain of all that lifting and tugging, I ap-
parently did something to my back. It was bothering me
some, but when I went through my cancer check in Beau-
mont and they found no signs of any recurrence, the back
didn't worry me any more. I was all pepped up again. I
jumped right back on the tournament circuit, which I know
now was a mistake.
I went into the Babe Zaharias Open at Beaumont on
April fifteenth and faded off to thirteenth place with a terrible
eighty on the last day. My back was aching and everything,
I thought it was just fatigue. Instead of laying off for a while,
I went on to Georgia the next week for the Carrollton
Women's Open. I took vitamin B-l injections during the
tournament to try and keep up my strength, but the best I
could do was tie for sixth.
I still wasn't ready to admit that I wasn't in condition
to play. I was more determined than ever to win one. I moved
up with the tour the next week to Spartanburg, South Caro-
lina, to play in the Peach Blossom-Betsy Rawls tournament.
And I did win. I shot a seventy-two, then a seventy, then a
seventy-five and finally a seventy-six. My 293 total put me in
first place by two strokes over Marilyn Smith.
That tournament was an ordeal for me toward the end.
My back was really hurting. I came home to Tampa and prac-
tically collapsed. I was in bed for several days. I figured some
rest was all I needed. Each week I kept expecting to get
back on the circuit. But I was having pains in my right leg
and numbness in my right foot.
My condition got worse instead of better. Finally I went
down to Galveston in late May to the John Sealy Hospital to
see Doctor Robert Moore, the man who did my 1953 cancer
operation. He called in some of the other specialists there for
consultation, and my back trouble was diagnosed as a slipped
They had me try therapy and special exercises for
a while. The back didn't respond. Then they put me in trac-
tion. That didn't work either. I was in almost constant agony
by now. After nearly two weeks in traction, I was operated on
for a ruptured disc of the spinal column by Doctor S. R.
Snodgrass at the John Sealy Hospital.
That was on June 22, 1955. For a while afterward I was
convalescing nicely in the hospital, and then I began having
new pains in my back. At the end of July I got some bad
news. They spotted a trace of new cancer on the right side
of my sacrum, which is at the rear part of the pelvis.
So x-ray treatments were started. The doctors said it
would be three to six months before I could get back to the
golf tournaments. And just as in 1953, a lot of people were
doubting that I ever would get back in competition.
As far as I was concerned, there was no doubt about my
coming back again. With the love and support of the many
friends I have made, how could I miss? They have helped
me hurdle one obstacle after another, and any success I have
had is due to a great extent to their devotion and considera-
tion. Right now I want to thank them one and all, as well as
the many unknown people who have befriended me and
helped me on my way. Winning has always meant much to
me, but winning friends has meant the most
In the future, maybe I'll have to limit myself to just a
few of the most important tournaments each year. But I
expect to be shooting for championships for a good many
years to come. My autobiography isn't finished yet.
Adams Company, 10
Alford, Raymond, 34
All-American Tournament, 190,
192, 217, 218, 224
Amateur Athletic Union, 69, 91
Amherst, N. BL, 10
Ajidrini Brothers, 114
Armour, Tommy, 147, 148, 150,
Arnold, Mary, 124
Aulbach, George, 86, 89, 90
Aunt Minnie, 13
Babe Didrikson's Afl-Americans,
Babe Ruth, 11
Babe Zaharias golf shoes, 10
Babe Zaharias Open, 195, 196,
Baker, Del, 206
Barton, Pam, 116
Beaumont, Texas, 3, 7, 11, 12, 16,
17, 22, 26, 32, 35, 36, 37, 64,
65, 66, 74, 77, 79, 80, 107, 109,
110, 191, 194, 199, 202, 203,
Beaumont Country Club, 97
Becker, Mrs. Albert, 138
Becker, Marge, 137
Berg, Patty, 103, 129, 130, 186,
187, 188, 189, 193, 194, 195,
196, 218, 220
Betz, Pauline, 125
Blue Mound Golf & Country Club,
Bob Murphy and His Collegians,
Boudreau, Lou, 206
Bowen Air Lines, 41
Bowen, Bertha, 90, 91, 119, 199,
Bowen, R. L., 90, 199, 201, 202,
Bradenton, Florida, 82
Bradley, General Omar, 134
Braumiller, E., 55
Brentwood Country Club, 57, 60,
British Women's Amateur, 146,
147, 148, 150, 160-171, 172,
Broadmoor Match Play Tourna-
Brooklyn Yankees, 76
Brough, Louise, 124, 125
Brown, Annie Thurban, 156, 157,
Brown, Joe E., 53
Bryant, Betty, 113
Bryant, Bill, 113
Burke, Jack, 90, 98
Burke, Jack, Jr., 90
Callender, Clara, 132, 133, 141
Cancer, 5, 12, 51, 75, 197-232
CarroUton Women's Open, 231
Castor Oil Clarence, 15, 65
Celebrities Golf Tournament, 46,
Chandler, Peggy, 91, 93, 94, 95,
Chicago Tribune, 71, 74
Chrysler Motor Company, 69
Cohen, Dr., 80, 81
Cole, Mrs. Clarence F.
See Didrikson, Dora*
Cole, Frank, 109
Cole, Harold, 109
Collett, Glenna, 28, 164
Conners, Charley, 117, 118
Connolly, "Little Mo," 123
Cooper, Harry, 118
Corcoran, Fred, 178, 180, 181,
Crosby, Bing, 71, 129, 130, 189
Dallas, Texas, 3, 4, 35, 36, 39, 43,
44, 51, 58, 59, 62, 64, 68, 104,
See White, Betty Mims.
Darsie, Darsie L., 120
Dean, Dizzy, 82
Dean, Paul, 82, 83
Demaret, Jimmy, 98, 189
Dempsey, Jack, 74, 75
Dettweiler, Helen, 186
Day, Joe, 120
Didrikson, Arthur, 7, 11, 12, 29,
Didrikson, Dora, 10, 19, 109, 207
Didrikson, Esther Nancy, 10, 69,
73, 135, 136, 137
Didrikson, Hannah Marie (Mom-
ma), 7-8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 15, 17,
18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 24, 25, 26,
27, 35, 62, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68,
77, 79, 80, 81, 107, 108, 109,
Didrikson, Lilly, 7, 11, 21, 25, 28,
29, 30, 31, 67, 102, 107, 108,
Didrikson, Louis, 7, 11, 23, 24,
28, 29, 202, 203, 207, 215
Didrikson, Mildred Ella (Babe),
See Zaharias, M. E. D.
Didrikson, Ole (Poppa), 4, 7, 8,
9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 17, 19,
20, 22, 23, 25, 28, 35, 62, 64,
65, 66, 77, 79, 80, 81, 138
Didrikson, Ole, Jr., 10, 29, 208
Didrikson, Thelma, 202, 203, 215
Dfflo, Jack, 115
DiMaggio, Joe, 181
Dimmitt, Lil, 33, 34
Doan, Ray, 81
Dodd, Betty, 6, 12, 195, 196, 199,
203, 204, 206, 207, 209, 211,
212, 214, 215, 216, 223, 227,
Donald, Jean, 166, 167, 175
Du Pont, Margaret, 125
Durocher, Leo, 112, 113
Durocher, Mrs. Leo, 112, 113
Dutra, OHn, 60
Dyer, Braven, 60
Dyer, Eugene, 188
Dyche Stadium, 48
Eastern Women's Open, 190
Eisenhower, Mrs., 221
Eisenhower, President, 221, 222
Emerson, George P., 69, 73
Employers Casualty Company,
34, 35, 36, 39, 40, 43, 45, 47,
49, 50, 62, 64, 68, 69, 77, 79,
80, 81, 84, 86
Erdman, C. Pardee, 105, 106,
Ezar, Joe, 144
Falconer, Mrs. Cosmo, 165
Faulk, Mary Lena, 103
Finch, Mrs. Kip
See Woodward, Ruth.
Fleischer, T., 55
Florida East Coast Women's
Florida Mixed Two-Ball Cham-
Forest Hills Country Club
See Tampa Golf and Country
Fort Worth Women's Invitation,
Foster, Dorothy, 121
Foxx, Jimmy, 82, 83
Frisch, Frankie, 82
Gable, Clark, 53
Gallagher, Mel, 105
Galileo, Paul, 60, 61
Garfield, John, 124
Gaynor, Janet, 53
Germain, Dorothy, 135, 137
Gisolf, Fraulein M,, 50
Goggin, Willie, 106
See Employers Casualty Com-
Goldsmith's Sons, P., 98, 103
Gordon, Jacqueline, 168, 170,
171, 172, 173, 174
Gottlieb, Bea, 186
Griffith, Clark, 206
Grimes, Mrs. O. B.
See Didrikson, Lilly
Gunther, Margaret, 143
Hagen, Walter, 28, 100, 149, 174,
Hall, Evelyne, 55
Hanson, Beverly, 6, 218
Hanson, Mrs., 17, 18, 24
Hardscrabble Women's Open, 188
Helen Lee Doherty Women's
Hicks, Betty, 122, 142, 186, 223
Hicks, Helen, 98, 115, 116
Hobart, Bud, 112
Hogan, Ben, 100, 128, 130, 149
Hollins, Marion, 127
Holm, Helen, 162
Hope, Bob, 129, 130, 189, 206
Hopkins, Jean, 143, 144
Hotel Dieu Hospital, 191, 203
Hutchinson, Mrs. James, 91
Icely, L. B., 186, 187
Illinois Women's Athletic Club,
48, 50, 64
Jacksonville Women's Open, 194
Jameson, Betty, 139, 186, 193
Jannopoula, A. P., 112
John Sealy Hospital, 80, 205, 231
Jones, Bobby, 28, 86, 98, 100,
147, 149, 174, 176, 206
Jule kaka, 19
Keeler, O. B., 166
Keene, Archie, 115
Keller, K. T., 69
Kertes, Stanley, 78, 79, 89, 90,
Kielty, Dorothy, 140, 179
King, Mr., 29
Kirby, Dorothy, 145
Kirk, Peggy, 141, 144, 145, 222
Kirksey, George, 50
Knous, Governor Lee, 179
Koth, Mrs. Philip
See Didrikson, Esther Nancy.
Ladies Professional Golfers As-
sociation, 187, 190, 229
Lakeside Park, 40, 41
La Mont, Betty, 114
La Mont, Tony, 114
Lewis, Ed, 119
Libbey, George, 70, 71, 72
Lindbergh, CoL, 62
Lloyd, Harold, 126
Londos, Jimmy, 119
Long Island Ducklings, 76
Lopez, Vincent, 77
Lorre, Peter, 124
Los Angeles Open Tournament,
Louis, Joe, 134
Lukas, Paul, 124
McCandless, Christine, 7, 13
McCombs, Col. M. J., 4, 34, 35,
36, 37, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44,
45, 50, 53, 59, 62
McGinnis, Ruth, 76
McKechnie, Bill, 206
McMillen, Mary, 140
MacDonald, Rena, 49
MacGregor Golf Company, 98
Mamaschella, 12, 13
Mangrum, Lloyd, 58, 59, 105, 106
Mann, Mrs. Russell, 122
Mansfield, Anna Louise, 24
Marble, Alice, 123
Marino, Hank, 126
Martin, Pepper, 206
May, George S., 140
Medwick, Joe, 112
Mitchell, Homer R., 40, 62, 64
Mitchell, Jane, 81
Moore, Dr. Robert, 205, 211, 212,
213, 216, 231
Morrissey, Tom, 176
Musial, Stan, 180
Nary, Bill, 131
Nash, Lou, 78
National Capital Women's Open,
National Women's Amateur, 140,
National Women's Open, 6, 179,
189, 190, 192, 222, 223, 224
Nelson, Byron, 130
New Orleans Women's Open, 194
Newton, Mayor Quigg, 179
Niles, Illinois, 5
Nimrno, Helen, 161
North and South Women's Ama-
North Berwick Inn, 153$.
Norwegian Meat Balls, 19
Ochiltree, Mrs. J. A., 121
Oklahoma Presbyterian College,
Olympic Games, 4, 28, 29, 33 ? 40,
43, 44, 47, 49, 51, 53, 54, 55,
56, 62, 63, 64, 67, 68, 74, 83,
Olson, Hannah Marie
Olson, Oscar, 131
Orcutt, Maureen, 141
Otto, Phyllis, 121, 139
Packs, Tom, 112
Palace D'Orsay, 70
Palm Beach Women's Amateur,
Parker, Bill, 93
Peach Blossom-Betsy Rawls Tour-
nament, 194, 231
Pegler, Westbrook, 60
Philadelphia Athletics, 82
Picard, Henry, 106
Pignon, Fred, 163
Pittenger, Joe, 126
Port Arthur, Texas, 10, 11, 17, 18,
Porter, Mrs. Mark
See Germain, Dorothy.
Pung, Mrs. Jackie, 118, 119
Rawls, Betty, 218
Reddan ? Mrs. Val, 164
Reid, Archie M., 97
Rice, Grantland, 56, 57, 59, 60,
" 61, 62, 83, 178, 206
Richards, Mrs. Edgar, 107
Richmond Women's Open, 191
Riley, Polly, 140, 144
River Oaks Country Club, 90, 91,
Rochon, Mrs. F. C., 92
Rodenback, Clark, 70
Rogers, Johnny, 98
Rogers, Will, 53
Rooney, Mickey, 130, 206
Rummell, Mrs., 30
Ruth, Babe, 75, 85
Sarazen, Gene, 95, 98, 99, 101,
115, 116, 149, 174
Sarazen, Mary, 101
Scurlock, Bill, 210
Seignious, Hope, 187
Serbin Women's Open, 219, 220,
Shearer, Norma, 53
Sheppard, Enid, 162
See Callender, Clara.
Shevlin, Morris, 112
Shiley, Jean, 50, 56, 57
Sigel, Helen, 141, 158, 165
Singer, Jack, 106
Sister Mary Daniels, 203, 204,
Sister Tarsisis, 208, 209, 214, 215
Sky Crest Country Club, 188, 189
Smith, Marilyn, 231
Snead, Sam, 127, 128, 149
Snodgrass, Dr. S. R., 231
Soldier's Field, 63
Solomon, Mr. & Mrs. Sidney, 112
South Atlantic Women's Cham-
South End Junior High, 32
Southern California Major
Southern Women's Amateur, 96
Spring Lake Women's Open, 89
Stephens, Frances, 166
Stranahan, Frank, 189
StribMng, Bill (Baby), 84
Stribling, Young, 84
Suggs, Louise, 143, 144, 145, 166,
189, 190, 195, 224, 229
Sullivan, Ed, 206
Sun Oil Company, 37, 38
Tainter, Georgia, 121
Talmadge, Norma, 53
Tarn o' Shanter Country Club, 5,
Tampa Golf and Country Club,
189, 192, 225, 226
Tampa Women's Open, 143, 218,
Tatum, Dr. William C., 199, 200,
Tatum, Dr. W. E., 191, 192, 194,
195, 196, 197, 198, 199, 201,
202, 204, 205, 216
Tennant, Eleanor, 123, 124, 125
Texas State Fair, 3, 31
Texas state women's champion-
ship, 87, 88, 89, 90
Texas Women's Golf Association,
Texas Women's Open, 121, 122,
138, 142, 188, 193, 218
Thaxton, Leona, 36
Thompson, Barbara Beach, 127
Thomson, Jimmy, 106
Thurstons of Wichita, 39
Topping, Dan, 118
Traung, Dorothy, 127
United States Golf Association,
91, 96, 97, 120
Van Wie, Virginia, 28, 164
Varipappa, Andy, 126
See Zaharias, George.
Vreeland, George, 52, 53
Ward, Arch, 74
Waring, Fred, 206
Wajsowna, Jadwiga, 64
Walker, Gerald, 144
Wall, Mary Agnes, 143, 145
Walsh, Stella, 44
Warren, Lalia, 36
Weathervane, 190, 191
Webb, Del, 206
Weismuller, Johnny, 130
Western Professional Golfers As-
Western Roll, 43, 56, 57
Western Women's Amateur, 140
Western Women's Open, 111,
119, 121, 134, 135, 136, 137,
187, 188, 190
Wethered, Joyce, 28, 99
Whitaker, Miss, 31
White, Betty Mims, 183
Whitecloud, Dr., 203
Wilkinson, Bud, 103
Williams, Danny, 39
Williams, Ted, 180, 182
Wilman, Joe, 126
See Siegel, Helen.
Wilson Sporting Goods Company,
180, 181, 186
Winehell, Walter, 205
Winger, Mrs. R. E., 92, 93
Women's International Four Ball,
Women's Titleholders Tourna-
ment, 145, 190, 194, 230
Wood, Mrs. Henry, 47, 48, 50,
Woodhead, Ben S., 97
Woodul, Mrs. Walter, 92
Woodward, Ruth, 158, 165
World Championship, 190, 192,
193, 218, 224
Yarra Yarra Country Club, 117
Zaharias, George, 6, 12, 19, 51,
75, 84, 105, 106, 107, 108, 109,
110, 111, 112, 113, 114, 115,
118, 119, 120, 121, 123, 124,
125, 126, 128, 129, 131, 135,
136, 138, 142, 143, 144, 146,
147, 148, 150, 156, 177, 178,
179, 180, 181, 183, 185, 186,
187, 188, 189, 191, 193, 196,
Zaharias, George (continued)
197, 199, 200, 201, 202, 203,
204, 205, 206-208, 209, 210,
211, 213, 214, 215, 216, 223,
226, 228, 229, 230
Zaharias, Mildred Ella (Babe)
Didrikson, birth, 10; household
duties, 13-15, 18-21; plays
harmonica, 15, 16; works as fig-
packer, 26, 27; sews gunny
sacks, 27; school work, 30-32;
work in Dallas, 35$.; "One-
gar!"' track meet, 47-50; Olym-
pics, SOff .; turns pro, 69f,;
stage shows, 70-73; plays pro
basketball, 76, 77; House of
David baseball, 81, 82; starts
tournament golf, 88$\; marries
George Zaharias, 112; sails for
Australia, 113f.; death of
mother, 136-138; plays in Brit-
ish Amateur, 149ff.; hernia
operation, 191, 192; is told she
has cancer, 197#.; cancer
Zimmerman, Mrs. F. W., 121
Zottka, Mr. & Mrs. Matt, 112
Babe Zaharias' Record
1932. .Voted Woman Athlete of the
Year by Associated Press.
1935. .Began playing golf.
.Winner, Western Open, 5 4.
Winner, Texas Open, 1 up.
.Winner and Medalist, 77,
Western Open, 7 & 5.
, Winner and Medalist, 75,
Western Open, 4 & 2.
Winner, Texas Open, 7 & 6.
Runner-up, Western Amateur.
Voted Woman Athlete of the
Tear by Associated Press.
.Winner and Medalist, 73,
onship, 6 & 5.
Winner, National Amateur, 10
Winner, All American Open,
Winner, Texas Open, 5 & 3.
Winner, Broadrnoor Inv., 6 &
Voted Woman Athlete of the
Year by Associated Press,
. Winner, Tampa (Fla.) Open,
Winner, Helen Doherty, 12 &
Winner, Palm Beach, 1 up.
Winner, South Atlantic, 5 & 4.
Winner, Florida East Coast, 2
Winner, Augusta Titleholders,
Winner, North and South, 5 &
Winner, British Amateur, 5 &
Winner, Hollywood, Fla.
Winner, Florida Mixed Two-
Winner and Medalist, 148,
Wash, D. C.
Winner, Broadmoor Inv., 10 &
Voted Woman Athlete of the
Year by Associated Press.
1948, .Tied second, Augusta Title-
holders Tournament, 309.
Winner, All American Tour-
nament, 309 $1,200.
Winner, World Championship,
Winner, National Open, 300
Runner-up, Texas Open.
Runner-up, Western Open.
1949 . . Runner-up, Tampa ( Fla. )
Open, 296 $650.
Second Pro, Augusta Title-
holders Tournament, 304.
Winner, Eastern Open, 219
Winner, World Championship,
Runner-up, All American
Tournament, 307 $650.
Runner-up, National Open,
Voted Greatest Female Ath-
lete of half century by As-
1950.. Third Pro, Tampa Open, 304
Winner, Augusta Titleholders
Tournament, 298 $700.
Winner, 144 Hole Weather-
vane Tournament, 629
Runner-up, Eastern Open,
Winner, Western Open, $500.
Winner, All American Cham-
pionship, 296 $900.
Winner, World Championship,
Winner, National Open, 291
Voted Woman Athlete of the
Year by Associated Press.
1951. .Winner, Ponte Yedra (Fla.)
Open, 223 $750.
Winner, Tampa Open, 288
$1,000. Set 72-hole record.
Winner, Orlando Two-Ball
Tournament, with George
Tied Second Pro, Augusta
Runner-up, Sandhills Open,
Winner, Fresno Open, 225
Winner, Richmond Open, 224
Tied second, Sacramento
Open, 76 $137.50.
Runner-up, 144 hole Weather-
vane, 601. Lost to Patty
Berg, 36-hole play-off, 146-
Runner-up, Eastern Open, 218
Winner, All American Tourna-
ment, 295 $1,000.
Winner, World Championship,
Runner-up, Carrollton Open,
Third, National Open, 299
Winner, Texas Open, 8 & 7.
Leading money winner
1952. .Tied third, Jacksonville Open,
Runner-up, Tampa Open, 298
Winner, Miami Weathervane,
Winner, Orlando Two-Ball
with Al Besselink, 1 up
Tied second, Sarasota Open,
Winner Augusta Titleholders,
Tied fifth, New Orleans Open,
Runner-up, Houston Weather-
vane, 143 $540.
Fifth, Richmond Open, 225
Winner, Fresno Open, 226
Third, World Championship,
Tied sixth, Betty Jameson
Open, 222 $285.
Winner, Texas Open, 1 & 6
Fifth Money Winner $7,503.
1953.. Sixth, Tampa Open, 300
Tied second, Miami Beach
Open, 222 $560.
Runner-up, Orlando Two-Ball
teamed with George Bolesta
Winner, Sarasota Open, 217
Tied second, Jacksonville
Open, 216 $560.
Tied second, New Orleans
Open, 231 $630.
Winner, Babe Zaharias Open,
Tied 15th, All American Open,
Third, World Championship,
Awarded Ben Hogan Trophy
for Greatest Comeback of
Sixth Money Winner
1954. .Tied 14th, Sea Island Open,
Seventh, Tampa Open, 316
Runner-up, St. Petersburg,
216 lost play-off $630.
Winner, Serbin Open, 294
Winner, Sarasota Open, 223
Third, Augusta Titleholders,
Third, Betsy Rawls Open, 221
Third, Carrollton Open, 220
Third, New Orleans Open, 299
Runner-up, Babe Zaharias
Winner, National Capital
Open, 299 $1,000.
Winner, National Open, 291
Tied second, Inverness Four-
Ball, 141 $475.
Fifth, Fort Wayne Open, 223
Winner, All American Open,
Fourth, World Championship,
Fourth, Wichita Open, 305
Tied seventh, Ardmore Open,
Oi-si JN ov.
Second money winner
Winner Vare Trophy Av.
1955. .Fourth, Los Angeles Open,
Winner, Tampa Open, 298
Fourth, St. Petersburg Open,
Winner, Serbin Diamond Golf
Ninth, Serbin Open, 310
Tied seventh, Augusta Title-
holders, 306 $280.
(continued from front flap)
her remarkable Norwegian-born
Mamma and Papa; her account of
her engaging romance with George
Since she left that terrible, insidi-
ous cancer on the operating table in
1953, sufferers from all over the
world, many who had been through
the same ordeal have deluged her with
questioning letters. "How can you,
a sufferer of the same horror as I, be
up and playing 1 8 holes a day three
months after the operation, when
after six months it is almost more than
I can doL : .to lift myself out of the
wheel chair! " Here is the exhilarating
answer of Babe Didrikson Zaharias.
It is a story rich in both humor and
pathos of a spontaneous, unaffected
variety. It will appeal to both men
and women in all walks of life.
Only a part of this great life story
was serialized in THE SATUR-
DAY EVENING POST.
Jacket design by John Faragasso
A. S. Barnes and Company
The World's Largest Publishers of
Books on Sports